The six-year agreement is for Comcast systems in the top ten markets where Nielsen has new local people meters. Nielsen will go into its tenth market--Atlanta--later this year. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The timing of the deal is interesting, because it comes as Nielsen faces an antitrust suit from TV ratings upstart erinMedia, which uses Nielsen's long-term, "staggered" contracts as one of its claims that Nielsen's business practices block competitors from entering the TV ratings market.
The single contract agreement with Comcast supplants individual market agreements that the cable operator has with Nielsen. Overall, Comcast sells local advertising in 70 markets overall, and in 22 of the top 25 of Nieslen's so-called designated market areas.
Comcast said the new agreement will make it easier for all its systems in those markets to access people meter data.
While some local cable viewing has climbed as a result of adding people meters to local markets, other concerned groups--including broadcast stations and networks, especially Fox Broadcasting Corp. and Tribune Broadcasting--have complained that Nielsen undercounts minorities with its new local meters.
The top ten markets -- New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, Detroit, Dallas, and Atlanta -- represent 30 percent of U.S. TV households. Nielsen has maintained that people meters more accurately estimate TV viewership in a world where TV audiences have become more fragmented.