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Nielsen Admits Error in Kids’ Viewership Numbers, But Still Says Nick Is Down (Update)

Company says it gave incorrect data to Wall Street Journal

Nielsen says it erred when it told The Wall Street Journal that childrens' viewership is up this season even as Nickelodeon's ratings are down — but still stands by its Nickelodeon numbers.

The ratings company told the Journal — and later TheWrap — that viewing by children ages 2 to 11 has climbed 1.7 percent this season compared to last fall. But the company said Monday that in fact their viewership is down 2.9 percent.

Also read: Nickelodeon Ratings Drop — and the Meanest Thing the Disney Channel's Ever Said

Though Nielsen has said there is nothing wrong with the numbers it has collected for Nick, the error gives the cable network ammunition as it tries to make its case that it is being undercounted.

Speaking at a UBS Global Media & Communications Conference on Monday, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said he is "frustrated" by the "inexplicable" ratings drop.

"As of now, however imperfect Nielsen is, it's the only game in town so we have to live with it," he said, according to Broadcasting & Cable.

He said he still expects year over year growth for Viacom's media network thanks to strong affiliate sales and cost containment.

Nick declined to comment Monday. In a statement, Nielsen expressed regret and said no other data was affected by the error.

"In calculating a year-over-year comparison, Nielsen used 2010 data that was correct as reported," the company said in a statement. "Due to a reporting change made in February of 2011, we did not apply a standard adjustment for year-over-year comparisons. … No underlying data or ratings were affected by this recalculation."

In November ratings released last week, Nick was down 19 percent year-over-year in ratings for viewers age 2 and older. In October, its ratings fell 13 percent. Nick first noticed its ratings dropping in September.

Nick has said it still expects to finish the year as the top network among viewers age 2 to 11, and that the network plans 500 new episodes in the next few months to increase ratings.