NEW DELHI - Agence France-Presse
India's oldest private TV network, NDTV, said Wednesday it had sued viewer ratings agency TAM India
and its global parents, Nielsen and Kantar, for over $1.3 billion for allegedly manipulating data.
In a 194-page lawsuit filed in the Supreme Court of New York, New Delhi-based NDTV alleged the defendants tilted data in favour of other broadcasters who "paid" money.
"We have filed the suit," a senior NDTV executive told AFP on condition of anonymity. He declined to comment further, saying the matter was before the courts.
Ratings agencies earn billions of dollars annually by selling data on viewership sizes and patterns that are used by advertisers for marketing and advertising plans.
Highest viewed broadcasters typically get the most advertising money.
In its suit, NDTV alleged widespread data manipulation had been going on for over eight years, repeatedly under-reporting the number of people actually watching NDTV channels.
The suit demands at least $810 million in compensation for lost revenues resulting from "false, fabricated and manipulated data".
It also seeks damages totaling $580 million to compensate for TAM's alleged gross negligence and hundreds of millions of dollars more for other alleged wrongdoings including breach of duty.
NDTV accused Nielsen and Kantor of operating "worldwide through a complex web of subsidiaries and joint ventures and abusing the power of TAM's monopoly in India." TAM is India's only TV ratings firm.
The suit alleged the defendants' acts have had a "catastrophic effects on customers, on the television industry, on customers and on viewers" around the world including the United States.
Formed in 1998, TAM is a joint venture between global ratings giant Nielsen and Kantar Media Research, another leading international player in the audience measurement industry. The television channel said Nielsen and Kantar ignored repeated warnings of the flaws in TAM's process of collecting viewership data.
The suit singled out Nielsen, calling it a case "of a once noble company... exhibiting unabashed short-term greed".
A Nielsen spokesman said the firm "has a longstanding policy of not commenting on pending legal matters." NDTV's stock was trading broadly flat at 52.90 rupees on Wednesday.