New Delhi: New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV) has sued The Nielsen Co. for allegedly manipulating TAM ratings data in favour of broadcasters who 'paid' money. Filing a detailed 194-page suit in New York's Supreme Court on July 26, the network has sought billions of dollars in damages from the ratings company. NDTV says it was made to appear that fewer people were watching NDTV channels than actually were. It has accused Nielsen and Kantor of operating worldwide through a deliberately complex web of subsidiaries and joint ventures and abusing the power of TAM's monopoly in India.
When asked for a response on the developments by Network 18 group's e-publication Firstpost which has a detailed report, TAM issued the following statement: "TAM India, a 50:50 joint venture between Kantar Media and Nielsen, doesn't comment on any litigation."
"Nielsen's wrongdoings, including, but not limited to, negligence, gross negligence, false representations, prima facie tort and negligence per se (based on violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Dutch Corporate Governance Code), have had catastrophic effects on customers, on the television industry, on advertisers and on and viewers in the US and overseas," reads the suit. NDTV wants $580 million for negligence, a minimum of $810 million for fraud and millions more on other counts including legal fees.
The suit says: "The Nielsen Board of Directors, as proxies for the world's largest and most powerful group of corporate takeover specialists (referred to herein and in Nielsen's 2011 Annual Report as 'Sponsors')" took this approach to cash out, as part of the typical leveraged buyout 'exit strategy', making billions of dollars in profits." The suit lists the said "sponsors" as "KKR, The Blackstone Group, The Carlyle Group, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Alpinvest Partners, Hellman & Friedman and Centerview Partners." None of them are named as defendants in the suit. Kanter Media Research is also named as defendants in the suit, as are the J Walter Thompson Agency and many others.
Two of the most damning paragraphs from the suit which can be read in whole at www.deadline.com says:
"On April 3, 2012, a meeting was held between the representatives of NDTV, namely, Rahul Sood, Sidharth Barhate and Anand Mohan Jha, and two field staff employees of TAM (one provided his first name, while the other did not disclose his name) at Ramada Plaza Hotel, Juhu, Mumbai. The TAM employees revealed that they were employed in Mumbai to look after, and collect data from, TAM meters.
They stated they were willing to manipulate TAM ratings in Mumbai. They showed their identity cards and represented themselves as TAM employees. They also showed TAM manuals to the representatives of NDTV and explained how the meters operate, and the number of meters /areas that they looked after. They were also aware of NDTV's ratings. They had been in touch with NDTV representative as mentioned above, therefore, during the meeting they insisted upon NDTV's permission to activate the system at the earliest so that NDTV could see prompt results of high TRPs as promised by these persons. They claimed to have effected manipulations in the past for other channels and were willing provide the same "services" for "any" channel that was ready to pay the demanded consideration (bribe). They were confident that they could triple channel ratings of NDTV in Mumbai over a period of two to three weeks in the required target group. They stated they had direct access to homes and visited those homes periodically (at least 3 to 4 times a week) and were in a position to easily influence what the households watched/viewed. They said by paying a bribe of $250 to $500 per household per month, the TAM households could be made to watch only those channels which they insisted upon…"
Disclaimer: IBNLive is owned by the Network 18 group, which also owns the television news channels CNN-IBN and IBN7, which compete with NDTV 24x7 and NDTV India, respectively.