⌚ Sunbeam Television Corporation V Mitzel Case Summary

Saturday, June 05, 2021 11:01:21 PM

Sunbeam Television Corporation V Mitzel Case Summary



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Neither party disputes that Nielsen exercises monopoly power over the television audience measurement services industry, both nationally, for the United States as a whole, and for local markets. Ratings are the gold standard of television media. They provide the percentage of all possible viewers of a particular demographic group watching a particular program or station. Ratings drive both the price point of a television commercial, a broadcaster's primary source of revenue, and the television station's going concern value. For purposes of this appeal, the pertinent local market is the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.

Sunbeam has purchased ratings from Nielsen for over thirty years. Naturally, the technology and methodology that Nielsen has employed to collect raw viewership sampling data, from which it extrapolates ratings, has changed over time. At first, Nielsen used a paper Diary. It required selected sample viewers manually to record in handwritten diary form their demographic information, together with the television programs they watched over the course of a week.

Next, Nielsen introduced the Meter-Diary Method. This new technology combined the existing paper Diary Method in place in certain sample homes , with information generated by electronic meters installed in other selected homes. The new meters automatically recorded the channels to which a viewer's television set was tuned. It combines an electronic meter, which tracks household viewership in general, with a remote control device. The LPM Method is interactive; it requires the individual household viewer to press unique identifying buttons on the handheld remote control provided with the meter. Nielsen has used this LPM technology for its national ratings since In its second amended complaint, Sunbeam contends that it has been injured, not just by Nielsen's introduction of an inferior product with respect to Sunbeam's local market area, but by Nielsen's violations of the antitrust laws, through its exclusionary conduct in its willful pursuit of remaining a monopolist.

Sunbeam claims that " [b]ut for Nielsen's exclusionary conduct, competitors likely would have entered or would enter the Relevant Market [the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area]. Before filing its second amended complaint, the district court instructed Sunbeam to establish in its pleadings that there were potential competitors " willing and able to supply a superior product but for Nielsen's exclusionary conduct. Sunbeam contends that Arbitron was both willing and able to enter the local television ratings market. Arbitron and Nielsen had competed in the local television ratings business for many years before Arbitron voluntarily left the industry in , to focus on the radio ratings market. It is currently the leading provider of radio audience measurement services in the United States.

Next, Sunbeam alleges that ADcom was willing and able to enter the local television market. ADcom was a ratings company that focused on measuring data from cable television customers. Lastly, Sunbeam alleged that erinMedia was both willing and able to enter the local television ratings market. Its business model measured television ratings by gathering set top box information for cable companies. Subsequently, Nielsen moved for summary judgment. Nielsen, claims, in essence, that this is not an antitrust case.

It argues that Sunbeam doesn't want a new provider of television audience measurement services, but that it just wants its old ratings back. Nielsen argues that " [c]hanges in ratings methodologies produce changes in ratings," and that the customers that complain about LPMs, are the customers whose ratings go down. After hearing, the district court concluded that Sunbeam had failed to raise an issue of material fact as to whether any of these three potential competitors it suggested was willing and able to provide a local television ratings service that could have substituted for Nielsen's service in Miami. It granted partial summary judgment in favor of Nielsen and dismissed.

Sunbeam's antitrust claims, on the basis that Sunbeam lacked antitrust standing to pursue its case. Whether, to establish antitrust standing, Sunbeam, as one of Nielsen's customers, must establish the existence of a willing and able competitor that would have entered the relevant market and competed with Nielsen, but for Nielsen's exclusionary conduct; and. Whether, if Sunbeam does have antitrust standing, has it raised a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Nielsen engaged in unlawful exclusionary conduct in the television audience measurement industry, causing antitrust injury to Sunbeam.

Summary judgment is appropriate where " there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We review de novo the district court's [partial] grant of summary judgment, and apply the same legal standards as the district court and view all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Gentry v. We review issues of antitrust standing de novo.

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