Nielsen Names Measurement Head Karthik Rao as New CEO

Karthik Rao speaks during the 2019 NYC Television Week.
Karthik Rao (Image credit: Mark Reinertson/Future)

Karthik Rao, head of Nielsen’s measurement unit, was named CEO of the company, replacing David Kenny, who managed the $16 billion sale of Nielsen to a private equity consortium.

Kenny was named executive chairman.

Rao’s job will be to maintain Nielsen's dominant position in the TV measurement business at a time when it is being challenged by a host of competitors using big data from millions of set-top boxes and smart TV’s to estimate audiences. 

Nielsen is working to incorporate big data into its measurement system, which historically has been based on a relatively small group of sample homes but no longer seems adequate to measure all of the ways viewers are consuming video.

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“We have spent the past five years engaged with Nielsen, and even more closely since the acquisition nearly a year ago,” said David Kerko, head of private equity at Elliott Investment Management LP, one of Nielsen’s new owners. “We have seen great progress already, and we want to thank David for all he has done to contribute to that success.

“Karthik is now the right leader for Nielsen, which is well-positioned to evolve with and support the media ecosystem as it undergoes a period of dramatic change,“ Kerko said. “Karthik’s expansive industry experience, deep client relationships, and proven track record make him ideally suited to manage this evolution and make Nielsen’s value stronger than ever.”

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Nielsen restructured earlier this year, with Rao being named CEO of the Nielsen Audience Measurement business. He had been the company’s chief operating officer.

“Nielsen has been my home for most of my career, and I could not be more excited for this new opportunity,” Rao said.

“Providing our client partners, the ad industry, and content creators of all types, the most accurate information possible is our singular goal,“ he added. ”Nielsen invented measurement a century ago.  In that time, the way audiences consume content has fundamentally shifted many times over, and we are committed to continuing to partner with our customers to lead that change. 

“I am fortunate to work alongside the best in the business, around the world, as we address unprecedented times of transition in our business.  Together with our talented employees, I look forward to positioning Nielsen for the next century and beyond,” Rao said.

Kenny joined Nielsen as CEO in 2018.

“This is an exciting day for Nielsen and for me,“ Kenny said. “I have been fortunate to lead this company through some extraordinary times in the past five years, working alongside Karthik for much of it. As I transition to my new role and my operating responsibilities come to an end, I hand over leadership to someone with extensive experience in knowing what Nielsen does best, backed by the skills and understanding to position the company for a vibrant future.  He has my complete support and I wish him, and everyone at Nielsen, nothing but tremendous success.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.