Allen Media Group sues Nielsen over alleged unreliable ratings

Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group is suing Nielsen, alleging the company provided it with unreliable ratings for some of its networks.

Allen Media is seeking monetary damages in the billions covering “millions of dollars in fees paid to Nielsen for shoddy and unreliably services, millions of dollars in lost advertising revenue and profits, lost business value and other consequential harms.”

The complaint, filed with the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, accuses Nielsen’s measurement system of failing to capture viewership for Allen’s channels including Comedy.TV, Recipe.TV, MyDestination.TV, ES.TV, Pets.TV, JusticeCentral.TV and Cars.TV. The company said its internal data showed viewership during advertising timeslots, but that Nielsen’s ratings did not pick up the same metrics.

Specifically, Allen Media has accused Nielsen not disclosing that sample errors in its reports increase “dramatically” when dealing with channels that have limited MVPD distribution like the abovementioned networks.

“The greater the sample error, the more likely it is that the viewership reported by Nielsen will differ significantly from the actual viewership, and the difference increases as the sample error increases. In other words, Nielsen knew that the errors in its data would be more frequent and larger for smaller companies like Entertainment Studios,” the company wrote in its complaint. “Nielsen concealed this crucial information while taking in millions in fees from Entertainment Studios.”

Nielsen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Allen Media also owns the Weather Channel and said as viewership has eroded due to pay TV subscriber losses, Nielsen’s ratings for the network have also become more prone to sample errors. The company accused Nielsen of not disclosing the potential for under-reporting viewership for the Weather Channel.

The lawsuit adds to the recent troubles for Nielsen, which has fallen under increased scrutiny for its ratings. Last year, the Media Rating Council served Nielsen with two votes of no confidence and suspended its accreditation. In August of 2021, Discovery CEO David Zaslav slammed Nielsen over its “antiquated system of measurement.”

“You have Google and Facebook, you have these technology companies. They know exactly who’s watching, they know exactly who they are, what they’re buying, what they want to read,” he said during a MoffettNathanson investor conference. “And we’re dealing with this antiquated system of measurement that advertisers love because they can rely on something that fundamentally undercounts all of us. As great as our industry is, we haven’t been able to get Nielsen to get their act together.”