SBS, Nielsen Trade Barbs Over L.A. Panel Problems


There’s a war of words that has erupted between one of the Hispanic market’s most important broadcast media companies and the nation’s dominant producer of audience estimates. At issue are the latest problems — significant ones — to plague Nielsen Audio‘s PPM-based measurement of the Los Angeles market.

On Thursday evening, Miami-based Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS) released a fiery statement objecting to Nielsen’s announcement that it will make “sweeping retroactive changes” to its audience measurement service. SBS asserts that the changes are discriminatory.

The statement came following the removal of four homes from the Los Angeles Portable People Meter (PPM) panel by Nielsen, earlier this month. This led the nation’s dominant audience measurement company to re-release no less than seven months of Nielsen Audio ratings for the No. 2 market in the U.S.

Noting that it received “disconcerting news” from Nielsen earlier this week, the owner of 17 radio stations in such markets as Puerto Rico, New York, Chicago and Miami slammed Nielsen for the retroactive changes, which it says were “based on an internal decision to remove a number of Hispanic households from its ratings sampling pool.”

SBS, and “other Spanish-language broadcasters” it did not disclose, “vehemently object and protest such unilateral, and seemingly, discriminatory actions taken by Nielsen, which unfairly and disproportionally exclude Hispanic-listener households from the ratings methodology.”

This may or may not be true.

It is clear that there are major problems with Nielsen Audio’s accurate measurement of Hispanic radio in Los Angeles. But, just how much Nielsen is willing to disclose about the matter leaves some wondering if SBS’s vitriol is fully justified.

In a statement sent to RBR+TVBR midday Friday, Nielsen said, “The integrity of our data is paramount and that is why Nielsen removed four homes from the Los Angeles PPM panel effective with the April monthly audio currency data.”

Nielsen further explained that an internal review concluded that these homes “did not meet our data quality and integrity standards.” The company added, “We conducted an analysis of data from October 2017 to March 2018 and determined that the data for these months will be reissued without these homes included.”

But, why was there a problem? Was it similar to an August 2016 affair in which 35 households were booted from the L.A. market panel? Why was this not noticed by Nielsen earlier, thus limited the amount of reissued ratings reports for one of the nation’s top markets?

Those questions were left unanswered.

“We have reviewed the composition and characteristics of the balance of the Los Angeles PPM panel without these homes and have determined that it meets our quality standards,” Nielsen would only say. ” The in-tab sample for the Los Angeles population overall and for Hispanic Spanish language dominant households in particular is representative of the market: 20.6% of the market is Hispanic Spanish Dominant and our goal is to have the composition of the sample come as close as possible to this proportion.”

In April, Nielsen Audio indexed at 100 for Hispanic Spanish Dominant. This means, it says, “that the proportion of the in-tab sample equaled the percent of the population. In March, we indexed at 99.  Previously with these four homes included we indexed at 101. Nielsen stands behind the quality and integrity of the Los Angeles radio listening estimates.”

SBS couldn’t disagree more. The restated ratings and rankings reports are, in SBS’s view, unreliable and inaccurately suggest that Spanish-language stations have dropped from top 5 rankings to No. 15 or lower.

“This cannot stand,” SBS declared. “SBS will continue to faithfully serve its Hispanic-listener communities and will not tolerate unfair and discriminatory attacks on Spanish language broadcasters. We will not stop until Nielson’s prejudicial and discriminatory attacks on U.S.-based Hispanics ceases.”

Additional reporting by Adrian Zupp


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