Judge Denies Nielsen Motion, Allows Antitrust Suit To Proceed
"The court finds that, at a minimum [erinMedia's] complaint contains enough facts that [Nielsen] can properly identify the two elements required to state a claim for monopolization," wrote United States District Court Judge Susan C. Bucklew, denying Nielsen's motion to dismiss erinMedia's antitrust complaints--although she did dismiss a separate complaint by ReacTV, a fledgling interactive cable network that is affiliated with erinMedia. Both are owned by Florida real estate billionaire Frank Maggio, who has made challenging Nielsen's monopoly over the TV ratings business his personal crusade.
That crusade appears to have some merit, at least enough to keep the suit alive. Maggio's complaint alleges that erinMedia has been unable to compete in the TV ratings business due to Nielsen's "anticompetitive conduct, which impedes innovation and harms consumers." Assuming that erinMedia can prove those allegations, Bucklew wrote that it is "of the type that the antitrust laws were intended to prevent and the type of injury that the alleged violation would be likely to cause."
The judge's decision also appears to give validity to erinMedia's claim that it is a viable potential competitor for Nielsen, disagreeing with Nielsen's argument that erinMedia only plans to collect data from a "fraction of the national market." The judge noted that erinMedia plans to collect data from cable systems representing about 60 percent of the U.S. TV population, while Nielsen's "national" sample collects data from only about 8,000 households.
Nielsen executives were not available for comment at press time, but they previously had said they believed erinMedia's suit was "without merit" and would be dismissed by the court.