NEW YORK: Latino TV viewers in the US have finally lost their 'niche' status as ratings provider Nielsen Media Research prepares to ditch its 15-year separate service that measures the numbers of Hispanic viewers.

In future, Nielsen's sole source for national ratings will come from its people meter survey, produced daily from set-top boxes in around 12,000 homes, including those of 1,400 Latino families.

The decision has been warmly welcomed by Hispanic language broadcasters Univision and Telemundo, which have long complained the previous separate system made comparison with mainstream, English-language networks more difficult and put them at a disadvantage with advertisers.

Growth of the US Latino population has led to Univision regularly pulling more viewers to its programs than leading mainstream networks in areas such as Los Angeles and Miami.

The nation's four Spanish-language networks attracted more than $3 billion (€2.19bn; £1.49bn) in ads during 2006, up from $1.8bn five years earlier.

Comments Hector Orci, chairman of La Agencia de Orci & Asociado ad shop: "This move says that Latinos make up an important market that continues to grow."

Adds Ceril Shagrin, Univision's svp of research: "The language isn't going away, and the population is growing. We need to be playing with everyone else."

While Sara Erichson, evp of Nielsen Media Research North America rah-rahs: "This step is part of Nielsen's commitment to continuously improve the quality and accuracy of its measurement and to ensure that our measurements reflect the growing diversity of the entire US population."

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff