NDTV sues Nielsen for USD 1.3 Billion in US over TAM ratings

The complaint is filed against various companies including WPP, Nielsen Co, Kantar, JWT, IMRB & TAM amongst others. The suit, filed on July 26, 2012, asks for a minimum of USD 1.3 billion -- USD 580 million for negligence and a USD 810 million for fraud

e4m by Noor Fathima Warsia
Updated: Aug 1, 2012 7:30 PM
NDTV sues Nielsen for USD 1.3 Billion in US over TAM ratings

This is not the first time that allegations have been made at TAM Media Research by broadcasters on the count of credibility of TV ratings data. However, NDTV has now made this a legal issue by suing Nielsen Company in a New York State court stating that Nielsen’s wrongdoings, including negligence, gross negligence, false representations and prima facie tort have had catastrophic effects on customers, on the television industry, on advertisers and on viewers in the US and overseas.

The suit was filed on July 26, 2012 and NDTV wants a minimum of USD 1.3 billion -- USD 580 million for negligence, a minimum of USD 810 million for fraud and millions more on a variety of other causes of action including legal fees.

The complaint has been made against various companies including WPP, Nielsen Company, VNU, ACNielsen Marketing Research India, Kantar Media Research, JWT India, IMRB International and TAM Media Research amongst others.

NDTV’s complaint said that the wrongdoings directly and proximately caused injuries to NDTV.

The preliminary statement of the complaint stated that not stopping publication of data in India, even after direct and unequivocal notice of such violations, meetings between NDTV and Nielsen board was consistent with the objectives of the Nielsen board, and is done in reckless disregard of customers’ rights.

In the statement, NDTV’s complaint also cited that in addition to various events occurring between 2004 and January 2012, on January 4, 2012, NDTV wrote to David Calhoun, the worldwide CEO of Nielsen, repeating complaints about NDTV’s losses resulting from ongoing rampant corruption in television viewership data published by TAM, a joint venture monopoly created by Nielsen and Kantar in 1998.

As a result, on January 12, 2012, L V Krishnan, CEO, TAM Media Research, informed NDTV that US representatives of Nielsen -- Paul Donato, Executive Vice President and Chief Research Officer, Nielsen and Robert Messemer, Chief Security Officer, The Nielsen Company, would travel to New Delhi to meet representatives of NDTV on January 20, 2012. That meeting took place, and was attended by NDTV, Paul Donato, Robert Messemer, Piyush Mathur, President, India Region, The Nielsen Company, Farshad Family, Managing Director, Nielsen India, Abhijit Patil, Regional Security Leader – APIMEA, The Nielsen Company and Thomas Puliyel, President, IMRB International, which falls as JWT company in India and Cyrus Elavia, Chief Counsel, India, The Nielsen Company.

All of NDTV’s losses and complaints as noted in this Complaint were presented to the officials of Nielsen and Kantar at that meeting, along with evidence supporting such losses and complaints, the parties involved in rampant corruption, which, by the very nature of television and cable operations in India included politicians. They were also informed of the potential for litigation against Nielsen and Kantar.

NDTV demanded two primary remedial measures -- the discontinuation of publication of data until there was an increase of sample size from 8,000 to 30,000 and immediately increased security measures. The complaint said, “To date, however, no such remedial measures have been taken. Corrupt data continues to be published, with the knowledge and/or conscious disregard of the fact that the benefits of such continuing publication inure to the benefit of politicians.”

The statement said that Nielsen and Kantar took control of events. They each made promises to NDTV to address NDTV’s complaints, and promised immediate solutions.

It was also said that NDTV relied on the direct and unequivocal promises made by the senior officers noted above of The Nielsen Company, the Kantar Group, Nielsen and IMRB International/JWT and did not take any further steps to effectuate the necessary remedial measures. Those promises have been broken, and NDTV has suffered losses as direct result of those broken promises.

NDTV’s key complaint is that TAM continues to publish “corrupt” data, despite direct and specific knowledge by each of them of the corruption of data and direct and specific knowledge of the losses caused.

“That data has been, and continues to be, corrupted by lack of security and lack of adequate sample size. Yet Nielsen and Kantar, through TAM, continued and still continue, to publish such corrupted data, despite direct and specific knowledge and admission by each of them of the corruption of such data, and direct and specific knowledge of the losses caused, and that continue to be caused, to NDTV by the publication of such corrupted data,” said the statement.

NDTV papers filed in the court state:
“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…”

“On April 11 and 12, 2012 a video was shown to Bob (Robert Messemer, Chief Security Officer, The Nielsen Company, Schaumburg, IL) by NDTV officials, which categorically conveyed to and persuaded Bob that NDTV’s repeated claims since 2004 were true and that the TAM system was corrupt and required immediate attention. He admitted to having a wholly new appreciation for NDTV’s concerns, and was convinced that he had not witnessed corruption of this level previously anywhere. He admitted to being amazed by the degree of networking and feedback loops such consultants appeared to have within the TAM system. He also acknowledged the need for changes in TAM system and personnel from the very top. Bob subsequently asked for a copy of the video. In lieu of the video recording, NDTV sent a redacted transcript to Bob…”

Meanwhile, all the TAM spokesperson would say in this case was, “TAM India, a 50:50 joint venture between Kantar Media and Nielsen, doesn’t comment on any litigation.”

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