What Does The Nielsen Sale Mean to You?


(By Buzz Knight) The announcement that Nielsen has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by a private equity consortium led by Evergreen Coast Capital Corporation for $16 billion dollars is not terribly surprising considering there was intense discussion and activity on this topic a little over a week ago.

At that point, an announcement came out from Nielsen which said that they had rejected an acquisition offer from a consortium of private equity firms, including the activist firm Elliot Management in a deal that would have valued the company at about $14 billion, including its $5 billion debt loads.

I said to one colleague when that announcement surfaced that it seemed like the possibility of a sale was not going away and that this seemed all part of the dance of the deal.

As media consumption habits and consumer habits continue to dramatically change it appeared Nielsen was at a crossroads in whether to pursue a sale or keep on its current path.

So, what are the potential implications of this sale for the Radio business?

I posed the question to a few of my former mates from The Council of Research Excellence.

CRE was a Nielsen funded think tank that was created in the early 2000’s as a means to help challenge Nielsen to improve audience measurement.

Nielsen ended its funding of the CRE in 2017 ultimately ending the organization.

Media Consultant and Forbes contributor Brad Adgate was part of the CRE for years and he says: “It is a smart move going private, especially since they bumped up the cost. There will be no shareholders, no earnings report. While Nielsen has been profitable over the years there is turbulence ahead. Besides the MRC accreditation issue they are facing a number of viable competitors as their client base is salivating at alternative measurement sources. Also, the next generation of audience measurement is going to be far more expensive, with larger samples and licensing fees from “big data” providers. Going private makes sense at this time although I think their priorities will remain with video.”

There lies the rub Mr. Adgate in your comment about Nielsen’s priorities. As the landscape shifts the radio business needs Nielsen to make quality cross platform measurement a priority for its future.

Another former CRE member was Stacey Lynn Shulman who previously was Chief Marketing Officer and Executive VP Strategy and Analytics for Katz Media Group, and she says: “The universe is leaning into behaviorally based data sets, rather than sample-based ones partly because the exponential explosion of listening options makes it increasingly difficult to effectively measure with traditional market research techniques. That said, there are important reasons why vendors like Nielsen remain valuable-namely the ability to compare current data with historical performance, the relationship of data sets to universe expectations(representativeness) and the understanding of the relative value of media options in the marketplace. Whatever your issues with their methodology, software or processes, Nielsen’s greatest contribution to the audio industry was in publishing its radio data alongside television data, allowing media and marketing professionals to really see the strength and dominance of radio.”

This sale has the potential to reinvigorate Nielsen if the leadership has the courage to rip the Band-Aid of legacy systems and approaches and focused resources on how 1+1=3 for today’s clients.”

Stacey believes Nielsen has client capabilities they are not maximizing when it comes to tools they have across audio, video, and digital publishing at the local and national levels. 

Dave Gregory the Managing Partner of Brookfield Business Partners (part of the purchasing consortium) says “As a private company Nielsen will be even better positioned to deliver the best measures of consumers rapidly changing behaviors across all channels and platforms.”

An optimistic comment but is it press spin as it relates to radios place in the new Nielsen ecosystem?

Only time will tell.

Will a Private Equity firm need to ultimately shave expenses?

Of course.

What can Radio do?

In whatever form the “new” Nielsen takes, the radio industry needs to continue to push toward better sample quality, a fresh look at smaller market measurement besides the antiquated diary system and better overall cross platform measurement.

There are great advocacy groups such as the NAB COLRAM (Committee On Local Radio Audience Measurement) along with the Nielsen Advisory Council which consists of radio and agency clients.

Make your voice known to members of these committees.

Do not be silent.

Your voice needs to be heard now more than ever.

Buzz Knight is the CEO of Buzz Knight Media and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]


  1. I totally agree with this article and I just want to say that this article is a very nice and very informative article.I will make sure to read your blog more. You made a good point but I can’t help but wonder, what about the other side? !!!!!!Thanks.

  2. In a small market (we’re plus 200) the only economic reason for buying a ratings service is to provide regional/national buyers with market information. Local direct advertisers only have 2 questions: How much and How many?
    But the cost of the service quickly exceeds the revenue from the low rates offered by the agencies. Especially factoring in the costs of servicing these accounts.


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