NIELSEN EXPANDS HISPANIC TV RATINGS WITH UNIVISION

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Nielsen Media Research will expand its local Hispanic TV ratings service from two to 11 markets in November with the support of Univision Television Group but not rival Telemundo Group.

Univision Television Group, comprised of the 11 stations owned by Univision Network, has put up an estimated $15 million over five years to support the expansion of Nielsen's local Hispanic ratings service. Telemundo, which owns six stations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, said it won't support the venture until methodology changes are made.

But Spanish-language media watchers say Telemundo's financial state may be the real culprit. Telemundo's financial reorganization plan was approved by the court in July, and the company is preparing to come out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Univision and Telemundo invested $40 million over five years to support Nielsen's national Hispanic ratings service that began in November 1992. New markets to be added, most in November, are: Albuquerque, N.M.; Chicago; Dallas; Fresno, Calif.; Houston; New York; Phoenix; San Antonio, Texas; and San Francisco.

The addition of nine new local Hispanic ratings panels, each with about 200 people, in theory should improve the ratings' accuracy. In addition to the larger size, the new samples will proportionately reflect Hispanic TV viewership based on language-only Spanish, mostly Spanish, only English, mostly English and English and Spanish.

Nielsen now breaks out Hispanic ratings from its local general market panels. The networks and media buyers say that method undercounts Spanish-language TV viewership because of a small sample size that includes too many English-dominant Hispanics.

Miami-based Strategy Research Corp. also publishes local Hispanic TV ratings, but those numbers are considered to overcount Spanish-language TV viewership because that sample has too many Spanish-dominant Hispanics.

Telemundo said it was displeased Nielsen is not changing its general market panel and will have two ratings panels and two ratings books in these 11 markets. Telemundo said the general market panel should be enlarged and changed to include the new Hispanic panel as a breakout so that one ratings book could be published in these markets.

"The real decision on ad budgets comes from the general market panel," said Jon Marks, Telemundo's VP-corporate research director. "Advertisers look at the general market panel and decide what percentage of the budget goes to the general market and what percentage goes to Spanish TV. If they don't change the general market panel, it will reflect lower viewership for Spanish TV and it won't grow the market."

Telemundo also said it can pay for the service. It will reduce its $300 million debt load to about $100 million when it comes out of Chapter 11, expected at the end of the month.

"If Nielsen does it right we're prepared to pay our fair share," Mr. Marks said. "Until they improve the makeup of the general market panel to proportionately represent Hispanics, we will not expand [our support] to other markets."

Ceril Shagrin, Nielsen's senior VP-market development, said, "We're not ruling out at some time in the future [Telemundo's proposal] may be a way we want to go." But, "...that's not the way we wanted to go with the service now," she said.

Univision and media buyers say they are content with the Nielsen proposal for now. Increased confidence in ratings can only help the market, they say.

"Sure we got things to straighten out [with Nielsen]," said Doug Darfield, Univision's VP-research director. "But, can [Telemundo] say Strategy Research method is best? I don't think so."

"Nielsen's got an awful lot of credibility," said George Ortiz, VP-media director at Castor Advertising, New York.

"Nielsen is generally accepted by clients," said Abbott Wool, senior VP-media director at Siboney USA, New York.

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