Mega-merger: Nielsen acquiring Arbitron
December 18, 2012
In a move that’s sure to fire up complaints about its monopoly once again, Nielsen is acquiring Arbitron, the only other company to develop significant ratings systems over the past few decades.
The deal, announced this morning, is worth an estimated $1.26 billion, with Nielsen agreeing to pay $48 per share in cash, a 26 percent premium on Arbitron’s closing stock price yesterday.
Though regulators will still have to review and approve the deal, it has already been okayed by both companies’ boards.
Nielsen has long been the lone name in TV ratings. Broadcast and cable buys are based on its system, which many media buyers have criticized for its small sample size and inability to measure viewership across multiple platforms.
But other companies that have tried to get into the TV ratings business inevitably fail, and Nielsen has continued to provide the only reliable, consistent ratings for the medium.
Arbitron, meanwhile, is the No. 1 source of radio ratings, an area Nielsen has tried to infiltrate over the years, with little success.
The company rolled out its portable people meter, an electronic device that eliminates the need for a paper diary, several years ago amidst protests that it undercounted minority listeners.
But the protests have largely died down, and the PPM is now deployed in more than four dozen markets.
The big issue for media buyers with this merger is how ratings can be improved. There is a strong desire in the media community to develop more standardized ratings that can be compared against each other in order to better understand the reach of a campaign.
There’s also a push, with TV content being consumed on tablets, smartphones and traditional computers, to get a system into place that reflects all of a show’s viewing across multiple screens, not just on TV.
Plus there are other forms of media such as streaming radio and other out-of-home listening and viewing that aren’t really accounted for in any ratings.
In a release this morning announcing the deal, Nielsen pledged to turn its focus to these unmeasured forms of media, using Arbitron’s considerable research and development to assist in that push.
“Arbitron will help Nielsen better solve for unmeasured areas of media consumption, including streaming audio and out-of-home. The high level of engagement with radio and TV among rapidly growing multicultural audiences makes this central to Nielsen’s priorities,” said Nielsen chief executive officer David Calhoun in a statement.
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