Some Cable Networks Turned off by Nielsen's Commercial Ratings

Nielsen Media Research is getting set to deliver its first-ever ratings of commercials, and some companies representing cable networks are balking at accepting them.

The Turner cable networks, which represent TBS, TNT, CNN and Court TV and are owned by Time Warner Inc. (TWX), said Tuesday they are opting out of participating in the new ratings system. NBC Universal, owned by General Electric Co. (GE), is also rejecting the plan for its networks, including CNBC, Bravo, Sci Fi, MSNBC and USA.

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Walt Disney Co.'s (DIS) ESPN also said it was "taking a wait and see approach" and not accepting the new measurements.

Nielsen had been planning to release the data for the first time on Nov. 18, but has pushed that target date back to Dec. 11.

For years, Nielsen's clients had been content to receive ratings information on individual shows, which didn't break out specifically who was watching during the commercials.

But there's been more of a clamor to break out commercials specifically, because digital video recorders are now giving viewers a chance to fast-forward through the ads and because the growing use of Internet advertising gives clients more of a choice in which to run commercials.

Currently, networks don't take into account DVR usage in setting ad prices. But the new commercial rating system will include measurements of DVR homes. Some cable networks believe that DVR owners are more likely to record broadcast programming than, for instance, news or sports on cable and that the new numbers will make broadcast commercial time appear more valuable than that on cable networks.

Jack Wakshlag, chief researcher at the Turner Networks, said he's seen too many mistakes on test runs.

"You know the data is not ready," Wakshlag said, adding that he is "distressed" that it is going to be released.

Gary Holmes, Nielsen spokesman, would not say how many Nielsen clients have decided to accept the new data or refuse it. The expectation is that when the data becomes an industry benchmark it would be used to set advertising rates.

"We think it's entirely appropriate for each company to make a decision on whether they want to participate now or later in the year or not at all," Holmes said.

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