New TV Ratings Player

AGB is expected to return to US market

THE three major television networks, cable operators, advertising agencies, and syndicators are all poised for the details and fallout from reports this week that Pergamon AGB, a British-based television ratings company will challenge the A.C. Nielsen Co. in providing a nationwide ratings business. Nielsen, unopposed for 30 years but recently under heavy criticisms for its procedures, says it welcomes the challenge. ``The last time AGB was here, they lost a ton of money because they didn't realize the size and complexity of the US market,'' notes Nielsen's Jack Loftus. He lists off 6,000 commercial TV stations, hundreds of syndicated shows airing at different times over the country, 50-plus basic cable systems, as well as pay cable networks.

Estimated cost of building a new ratings system is in the tens of millions of dollars. One could not be operational until 1992, according to industry analysts.

Spokesman for the networks remain reluctant to embrace specific companies and specific alternatives, but have been openly courting an alternative to Nielsen since reports on total audiences for TV were shown to have diminished for the first quarter of this year.

Richard Cutting, manager of corporate communications for NBC, said: ``We have made no secret of our concern that our industry needs accurate, reliable and dependable data.'' David Poltrach, senior vice-president for research at ABC, has stated ABC is ``willing to invest significantly in an alternative'' to Nielsen. Besty Frank, senior vice-president at Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising disagreed. ``We feel that the Nielsen data is good. We don't believe you should shoot the messenger.''

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