Nielsen Acquiring Arbitron in Bid to Expand Measurement Abilities

Multiplatform radio and TV engagement a priority

Nielsen Holdings has signed an agreement to acquire radio ratings and marketing research firm Arbitron as it seeks to expand its measurement abilities, the company announced today.

The deal, which is worth an estimated $1.26 billion, is subject to regulatory approvals. Should it pass muster, the alliance would allow both research firms to share panels, thereby bringing an unprecedented breadth and accuracy to television and radio ratings.

For Nielsen, bringing Arbitron’s Portable People Meter technology and mobile/app measurement into the fold should help meet broadcasters' demands for more accountable measurement of second-screen viewing.

Arbitron has measured out-of-home viewing of major sports events for Turner Broadcasting Systems and CBS. While media buyers have refused to accept guarantees against out-of-home deliveries, estimates of ancillary viewership have long been baked into sports CPMs. 

Television executives have been anxious for Nielsen to improve its measurement of nonlinear deliveries. In what is shaping up to be the weakest broadcast season in history, broadcasters largely are not being compensated for viewing on tablets and mobile devices.

Last week, CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves spoke to investors about the urgency of improving measurement of second-screen viewing. “One of the things looking forward that we need to have happen is for Nielsen to get better,” Moonves said. “There are a lot of people watching our shows that are unreported.”

Arbitron recently joined forces with sports giant ESPN and the digital-media research firm comScore in a bid to measure media consumption patterns across radio, TV, mobile phones, tablets and personal computers. 

“Arbitron will help Nielsen better solve for unmeasured areas of media consumption, including streaming audio and out of home,” said Nielsen CEO David Calhoun, by way of announcing the deal. “The high level of engagement with radio and TV among rapidly growing multicultural audiences makes this central to Nielsen’s priorities.”

William T. Kerr, president and CEO of Arbitron, said that combining Nielsen’s global capabilities and scale with Arbitron’s data would provide advertisers and media clients with better insights into consumer behavior and marketing ROI.

“We will also bring local clients greater visibility to empower more precise advertising placement and campaign effectiveness,” noted Steve Hasker, Nielsen’s president of global media products and advertiser solutions.

Together, Nielsen and Arbitron generated revenue of $6 billion for the year ended Sept. 30.