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While Nielsen’s $1.3 billion acquisition of Arbitron eliminates a rival, some of Nielsen’s TV network and media buying clients say the deal could lead to improvements in media measurement.
After making some concessions to satisfy regulators, Nielsen last week sealed the deal, saying that adding Arbitron and its personal people meter technology will allow it to measure media consumption it hasn’t been able to capture before and provide advertisers a better sense of how multiplatform campaigns perform. That might turn out to be true, but some Nielsen clients who have heard it all before have some reservations.
“I like competition. So further consolidation I don’t think helps anybody,” says Lyle Schwartz, managing partner and director of research & marketplace analysis at media agency GroupM. “Competition breeds improvement. I think competition helps clients, but it is what it is.”
Nevertheless, Schwartz agrees that in acquiring Arbitron, Nielsen gets the only other panel-based researcher in the industry, and it’s learned a lot about multiplatform measurement in its work on the cross-platform measurement initiative Project Blueprint. “I think there’s a lot of intellectual property there,” Schwartz adds.
Nielsen worked with Arbitron on a project for Turner Broadcasting designed to add out-of-home viewership registered by Arbitron’s personal people meters to Nielsen’s inhome ratings numbers. Turner calls it CNN All Screen, and has used it to measure sports telecasts as well as news.
While much of the talk in the research community is about measuring viewing on tablets and mobile phones, the biggest source of unmeasured viewing is out-of-home, says Jack Wakshlag, Turner chief research officer. The combined measurement found a significant and substantial lift in impressions. CNN has managed to convince some clients to buy advertising based on the CNN All Screen numbers.
Arbitron’s PPM might not produce TV ratings now, but it’s good enough to produce a metric used as currency in radio. “I think the marketplace will be enthusiastic about it because it’s using currency-based technologies,” Wakshlag says.
Now that Nielsen owns Arbitron, Wakshlag hopes it will be more enthusiastic about All Screen. “With one company managing and running this, now Nielsen has the incentive to make this a more robust offering that other companies could buy,” adds Wakshlag, who thinks the product would be more attractive under the Nielsen name than as a Turner product.
Arbitron also worked on Project Blueprint with comScore and ESPN. The government demanded that Nielsen license the technology to a third party. ESPN had no comment on the effects of the merger on Project Blueprint.
Jed Meyer, U.S. research director of Omnicom Media Group’s Annalect analytics unit, says Nielsen acquiring Arbitron “has the potential to be a step in the right direction” because it gets the PPMs to add to its measurement tools, and because Arbitron has several cross-media initiatives in the works that could benefit clients.
“My hope is that in addition to the new and improved products and innovations that they may bring to market, I’d also hope that they would be investing in their core product as well because so much of the business is still transacted on the core TV ratings and the core national people meter sample,” says Meyer, who was a Nielsen executive for many years.
And while the merger may reduce competition in TV measurement in the immediate term, “the landscape is so complicated that there are new technologies around the corner all the time, and my hope is those help even out the playing field,” Meyer says.
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