Ansin, Party Of 2: Your Table's Ready

I just received word that Sunbeam Television Corp., owner of WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami, filed a complaint against Nielsen Media Research, Inc. in Florida federal court in Florida, seeking "to restore competition in the market for TV ratings."  Sunbeam also owns WHDH, an NBC affiliate, and WLDI, a CW affiliate, both located in the general proximity of the last great American revolution.

Now, I could go off in all sorts of directions.  One direction - the "where were you when erinMedia brought this up 3 years ago?" direction -- in particular, is a REALLY tempting one to follow.  

But for now, I'm going to post a few tidbits of advice, in the hopes that Sunbeam owner Ed Ansin will pick up the phone and give me a call.  I applaud his courage on the Leno skirmish, and this salvo only adds to my admiration.  

I think we'd have a few things to talk about over lunch.  My choice, your treat, Ed.

In advance of a five-course meal (and a case of Maalox for dessert), and drawn from my days as erinMedia's Chairman, CEO, and chef, here are some appetizers for the long lunch to follow.  They might be a little hard to swallow at first, but trust me, Ed, you'll really need to try them all:



1)    Understand the rules of the game.  You are not competing in a free market, so throw away everything you think you know.  Your friends are not your friends, and having the best mousetrap only means that you're next in line for lunch.

2)    Repent -- admit you have been part of the problem.  Every check you have ever paid to America's sole billion-dollar, 100% monopolist has only served to keep them further entrenched.  Stop the money flow.  Immediately.

3)    Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely.  This adage holds true from the Federal Reserve System, to federal government, to consolidated media, to single-source ratings.  The numbers get smaller, but the pattern remains.  Consolidate power -- or ratings -- in one location, and you will lose all you hold dear.  Ratings are more than currency -- they represent truth.  If you hunger for truth, separate the powerbase, and DEMAND competition -- ideally funded entirely by a monopoly who is excluded from the cash-cow portion of the industry.

4)    There are no conspiracy theories -- there are only myths and facts.  Pretend YOU were the king of ratings.  How would YOU protect your domain?  Who would be most rewarded with the best ratings?  Who would you pay or reward to insure there would be no uprising?  Are LPMs really ATMs?  Answer these questions, and don't be surprised to see a pattern emerging.

5)    Stop complaining about your ratings.  Not only have you contributed to the continued abuses, but whining that your ratings suck will only backfire.  If you are interested in nothing but better ratings, then you will get what you deserve: at best, a temporary respite through the ratings industry equivalent of gerrymandering, a redistricting via panel tweaking, that will only pass the bad ratings on to the next poor slob ready to sue.

6)    Insist on competition -- and be prepared to pay in more ways than one.  The source of the problem is the monopoly; the crappy, lagging technology (and the resulting lack of accuracy) are symptoms, not causes.  If you AND YOUR BAND OF BROTHERS are not prepared to invest and commit to supporting true competition, then you aren't looking for a cure or remedy, you're looking for an opiate.

7)    There must be a revolution.  Ed, monopolies don't share.  They don't play nice in the sandbox (especially if they believe it's THEIR sand, and they invented sand).  And they can buy anybody they haven't already coerced, cajoled, corrupted, or canoodled.  If all you want is better ratings, save the attorney fees.  But if you want to help start a revolution, start building a war chest.  And understand, there will never be competition as long as the monopoly breathes.

Bon appétit.

2 comments about "Ansin, Party Of 2: Your Table's Ready ".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, May 1, 2009 at 6:13 p.m.

    And Ed, could I add an eighth piece of advice for if you really, really, really want to change the US TV Ratings monopoly?

    First, you need to recognise that some things like TV ratings, stock exchanges, road rules etc are a 'natural monopoly' whereby we don't want duality, so you need to devise a system whereby 'the industry' appoint their agreed monopoly.

    This then opens up the marketplace to competitors at some regular interval (maybe every five, seven, ten years etc). A good model is the UK model using a Joint Industry Committee (broadcasters, agencies and advertisers). Here in Australia we have a Media Owners Committee (the commercial broadcasters) but with the agencies and advertisers having regular input into reviewing the ratings performance and development (but not underwriting any of the formal 'risk' apart from being subscribers).

    If there is no forum for review after a given time period then inertia will reign and there will be no change.

    (Full disclosure - I am an ex Nielsen Australia employee. Nielsen lost the TV ratings contract in Australia under such a schema.)

  2. Kevin Mirek, May 2, 2009 at 12:33 a.m.

    Mr. Ansin apparently missed something early in his training. The only thing that determines a rate on a television station is inventory. If you want higher rates, create more demand. There is really no valuable use for a rating service in a television station's revenue plan. So fire them. Here is your new sales scenario for the Big Shot Media Buyer:

    BSMB: "Your ratings don't meet my CPP target at your rates.

    Ansin: So what? We're 95% sold-out at that rate; do you want some or not?"

    When you start relying on your salespersons to fill your inventory with more and new advertisers, your rates will automatically grow, and you can stop hanging your station's fortunes on some cosmic statistical formula. Remember, inventory is the only thing that determines a rate. Media buyers hate that reality.

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