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October 13, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

In what at best was seen as an embarrassment for Nielsen, the ratings research company, and at worst a snafu that could cost the broadcast networks millions of dollars of advertising, the company has admitted that it reported inaccurate ratings for the past seven months. The mistake, observed the New York Times, "raises questions about the company’s increasingly criticized system for measuring TV audiences." The Times reported that the error benefited ABC while negatively affecting the other networks. Nielsen would not say precisely how the error affected their clients’ ratings, citing confidentiality agreements. But television executives who track ratings results appeared aghast — not only by the admission of error but also by the fact that it took seven months for it to come to light. "These ratings are the currency of the business," said NBC’s head of research Alan Wurtzel. "Any time that currency is under suspicion it’s a concern." The glitch (or debacle, depending on one’s point of view) comes at a time when Nielsen is being challenged by other ratings research groups such as Rentrak and comScore, which are using methods that some regard as more appropriate for the digital age to track viewers’ preferences.