NEWS11 January 2010

Sunbeam’s antitrust claims against Nielsen dismissed

Legal North America

US— A Florida court has for a second time dismissed antitrust claims brought by Sunbeam Television against TV ratings firm Nielsen – but the broadcaster has again been given leave to amend its complaint.

Following a hearing on Friday, Judge Paul Huck granted Nielsen’s motion to dismiss on three counts: for alleged violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Florida Antitrust Act, and for alleged violations of the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Dismissal was denied for the alleged breach of contract.

Sunbeam’s case centres on the introduction of Nielsen’s local people meter (LPM) technology in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale market which, the broadcaster says, has damaged viewing figures for its WSVN TV station – costing it in excess of $1m each month in lost ad revenue. Sunbeam claims the ratings firm used its position as a “monopoly” to force LPMs on the market, despite objections from TV companies.

The broadcaster’s first complaint was dismissed, amended and re-filed in September. It has been set a deadline of 18 January to file a second amended complaint, while Nielsen has been given until 8 February to respond.

Nielsen has strongly denied the claims since they were first filed in May 2009, calling the action “utterly without merit”.