ComScore to Acquire Rentrak and Take on Nielsen

Move comes as networks demand multiplatform measurement tools

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Look out, Nielsen: ComScore announced it will acquire rival Rentrak Corporation in a stock-for-stock merger, allowing the combined company to take on the industry behemoth in the contentious battle for audience measurement.

ComScore, which specializes in digital measurement, will join forces with Rentrak, which tracks set-top box data to measure television viewing. Serge Matta, comScore's CEO, will serve as CEO of the combined company.

"The merger of comScore and Rentrak represents an exciting milestone for our combined clients, uniquely skilled employees and shareholders," said Matta in a statement. "Together we have an even more powerful ability to deliver what our clients and the media industry have long been asking for: a comprehensive cross-platform measurement currency that accounts for all the ways in which content is consumed, whether that happens on a desktop, mobile device, live or time-shifted TV, video on demand or through over-the-top devices."

News of the deal, which is expected to close in early 2016, comes in the midst of Advertising Week, where several outlets, including ABC, have been criticizing Nielsen's inability to fully measure the audience for its programming across all platforms.

"The reality is that measurement is a mess," Adam Gerber, vp, sales development and marketing for ABC, said earlier today. Added Lisa Heimann, vp of research for ABC, "The future of TV has to be measured differently. It just isn't cutting it."

Speaking at an Advertising Week session Monday, Steve Hasker, Nielsen's global president, said the company's total audience measurement is coming "by the end of the year."

Nielsen released a statement about the merger that reiterated its audience measurement dominance: "Nielsen has the only total audience measurement, comparable across all screens. All of our data is fully representative of the U.S. population, and we deliver truly independent measurement. There are myriad analytics options for the media industry, but Nielsen's focus is on delivering the actual currency ratings data used for trading billions of dollars in advertising. This requires superior quality, industrial-strength delivery, and gold-standard audited processes and methods." 

During Monday's Advertising Week session, Nielsen's president of U.S. media Lynda Clarizio stressed the importance of Nielsen's independence, as the company isn't a buyer or seller, unlike most other companies that collect data. "That independent third-party validation is very important," she said. That isn't the case with comScore and Rentrak, as holding company WPP is an investor in both companies. 

ComScore shareholders will own approximately 66.5 percent of the combined company under the deal, and each share of Rentrak will be converted into the right to receive 1.15 shares of comScore.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.