India’s New Delhi Television Limited has sued The Nielsen Co for manipulating ratings data in favor of broadcasters that pay bribes. Filing the intricate suit (Read it here) in New York’s Supreme Court, the subcontinent’s largest and oldest news network is seeking billions of dollars from the ratings company. With 42 counts, NDTV says it was made to look like less people were watching than actually were and suffered because of it didn’t pay bribes. “Nielsen’s wrongdoings, including, but not limited to, negligence, gross negligence, false representations, prima facie tort and negligence per se (based on violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and the Dutch Corporate Governance Code), have had catastrophic effects on customers, on the television industry, on advertisers and on and viewers in the US and overseas,” said the 194-page suit filed on July 26. NDTV wants $580 million for negligence, a minimum of $810 million for fraud and millions more on a variety of other causes of action including legal fees.
The plaintiff says that “the Nielsen Board of Directors, as proxies for the world’s largest and most powerful group of corporate takeover specialists (referred to herein and in Nielsen’s 2011 Annual Report as ‘Sponsors’)” took this approach to ”’cash out,’ as part of the typical leveraged buyout ‘exit strategy,’ making billions of dollars in profits.” The suit lists the said “sponsors” as “KKR, The Blackstone Group, The Carlyle Group, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Alpinvest Partners, Hellman & Friedman and Centerview Partners.” None of them are named as defendants in the suit. Kanter Media Research is also named as defendants in the suit, as is the J. Walter Thompson Agency and dozens more. NDTV does name that actions of the “once-noble company” and Kantor were “operating worldwide through a deliberately complex web of subsidiaries and joint ventures, creating, at least in India, a monopoly and abusing the power of that monopoly.” NDTV confronted Nielsen about the corruption at Television Audience Measurement, which Nielsen and Kantor created to gauge ratings in India, earlier this year and claim they were told the issued would be addressed and dealt with by July 1. NDTV claims the problem, which they say effects not only India but also “countless others in Florida, Turkey, the Philippines and across the planet,” has not been dealt with. “The aforementioned breaches of Nielsen’s duty to act with reasonable care proximately caused and is presently and proximately causing NDTV catastrophic damages in the form of, inter alia, the consideration NDTV paid TAM for the TRP Reports, lost advertising revenue, increased carriage costs with cable operators, loss of good will, loss of reputation in the television industry, failure to realize full market capitalization, and other lost revenues,” claims the plaintiff in the suit. Representatives for Nielsen did not respond to a request for comment. New Delhi Television Limited are represented by A New York firm Sabharwal & Finkel.