Amid accusations of false advertising and unfair trade practices, a legal spat between two of America's leading TV ratings companies - Nielsen Media Research and erinMedia - has led to the latter threatening a takeover of the former.

The legal battle centers on a statement made by Nielsen in a trade press ad, proclaiming: 'Thousands of shows ... millions of different viewers ... Nielsen counts them all.' This statement is challenged by Erin in a lawsuit filed Wednesday at the US District Court in the Tampa, Florida, division.

Nielsen doesn't literally do what the ad says, argues its rival. Instead it projects national TV ratings using a claimed statistically valid sample of some 9,000 national TV homes.

Erin, by contrast uses set-top cable data to literally track the viewing of millions of viewers

The company already has another lawsuit in process alleging antitrust practices against Nielsen Coincident with filing the second lawsuit, Erin chairman Frank Maggio said he might offer to acquire Nielsen if its parent VNU is sold to one of two circling investment consortiums [WAMN: 09-Jan-06].

Maybe Maggio was indulging in mere rhetoric, although his words were unequivocal: "If one of the rumored consortiums of US investment companies is indeed able to acquire control of VNU's assets, I am prepared to line up the financing to acquire and change Nielsen and the leadership responsible for stifling innovations and driving their propaganda machine."

Nielsen refused comment on the second lawsuit as it had yet to see the documentation.

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff