Nielsen Holdings PLC (formerly known as Nielsen N.V.) is a global information, data, and measurement company with headquarters in the U.K.. Nielsen operates in over 100 countries and employs approximately 44,000 people worldwide. Total revenues were $6.2 billion in 2015.
Nielsen was founded in 1923 by Arthur C. Nielsen, Sr., who invented an approach to measuring competitive sales results that made the concept of "market share" a practical management tool. The Company was originally incorporated in the Netherlands and later was purchased on 24 May 2006 by a consortium of private equity firms (collectively, the "Sponsors").
In January 2011, Nielsen consummated an initial public offering of common stock and, subsequently, shares started trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “NLSN”. On 31 August 2015, Nielsen N.V., a Dutch public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, merged with Nielsen Holdings plc, by way of a cross-border merger under the European Cross-Border Merger Directive, with Nielsen Holdings plc being the surviving company (the "Merger"). The Merger effectively changed the place of incorporation of Nielsen's publicly traded parent holding company from the Netherlands to England and Wales, with no changes made to the business being conducted by Nielsen prior to the Merger.
Headquartered in the U.K., Nielsen is a leading global, independent measurement and data company for fast-moving consumer goods, consumer behavior, and media. With a presence in more than 100 countries and services covering more than 90% of the globe's GDP and population, Nielsen provides clients with a comprehensive understanding of what consumers watch (programming, advertising) and what they buy (categories, brands, products) on a global and local basis and how those choices intersect.
The company's operations span developing and emerging markets worldwide, in more than 100 countries. According to SEC records, on 26 February 2015, Nielsen N.V., announced that its Board of Directors unanimously approved a proposal that resulted in a change in location of the company's headquarters, from the Netherlands to the United Kingdom. Upon approval, the company became incorporated under English law and was registered as a public limited company to be named Nielsen Holdings PLC.
James Attwood Jr. is Nielsen's non-executive Chairman, and Mitch Barns is Nielsen's Chief Executive Officer. James Attwood succeeded Dave Calhoun as Executive Chairman in January 2016. Prior to joining Nielsen as CEO in 2006, Dave Calhoun served as Vice Chairman of The General Electric Company and President and Chief Executive Officer of GE Infrastructure, the largest of six GE business units. He served as Nielsen CEO from to 2006 to 2014, when he was succeeded by Barns. Barns joined Nielsen in 1997 and has held various roles in Europe, Asia, and North America leading major parts of the business.
While the Nielsen brand is most often associated with television ratings, those TV ratings services comprise approximately one-quarter of the company's business and revenues. After substantial work to simplify the company over the last several years, Nielsen today aligns its business into two reporting segments: Buy (consumer purchasing measurement and analytics) and Watch (media audience measurement and analytics). The company measures performance, and helps clients improve and strengthen their market positions and identify opportunities for profitable growth with the use of its deep data assets and rich insights.
Nielsen's Buy segment (approx. 55% of global revenues) primarily helps packaged goods companies and retailers (and Wall Street analysts) understand what consumers are buying in terms of categories, brands and products. The company's aim is to measure all consumer purchases as buying behavior continues to fragment across channels and segments. For example, it is Nielsen's data that measures how much Diet Coke vs. Diet Pepsi is sold in stores, or how much Crest versus Colgate toothpaste is sold. Nielsen accomplishes this by purchasing and analyzing huge amounts of retail data that measures what is being sold in the store, and then combines it with household panel data that captures everything that is brought into the home. These measures of sales performance also fuel a range of forward-looking analytics to help clients improve the precision and efficiency of their advertising spending, maximize the impact of their promotion budgets and optimize their product assortment. They also can provide insights into how changes in product offerings, pricing or marketing would change sales. Major clients include The Coca-Cola Company, Nestlé S.A., The Procter & Gamble Company, Unilever Group, and Walmart. While the United States is the company's largest market, Nielsen is a global company. In the Buy business, it covers 106 countries representing more than 90% of the world's population.
Nielsen's Watch segment (approx. 45% of global revenues) primarily measures what consumers are watching (and listening to) across most devices: TV, radio, computers, mobile, over-the-top, etc. The company measures consumption of programming and advertising across all distribution points. Nielsen's ratings are used by advertisers and networks to shape the buying and selling of advertising. Major clients include CBS, NBC Universal, News Corporation, and The Walt Disney Company. Nielsen's Watch business measures media in 47 countries that together represent approximately 80% of global advertising spending. Nielsen's digital audience measurement capability is a rapidly growing part of this footprint.
Arthur C. Nielsen founded the AC Nielsen Company in August 1923 with the idea of selling engineering performance surveys. It was the first company to offer market research. The company expanded its business in 1932 by creating a retail index that tracked the flow of food and drug purchases. This was the first retail measurement of its kind and for the first time allowed a company to determine its "share" of the market—the origination of the concept of "market share" Arthur C. Nielsen is credited with coining this business term.
In 1936, Arthur C. Nielsen acquired the Audimeter, which measured which radio stations a radio had been tuned to during the day. After tinkering with the device for a few years, the company created a national radio rating service in 1942. The company collected information on which stations were tuned to in 1,000 homes. Then, this survey data was sold to manufacturers who were interested in the popularity of programs and demographic information about listeners for advertising purposes. This was the birth of audience measurement that would become the most well-known part of Nielsen's business when applied to television. Today, these are commonly referred to as "Nielsen ratings".
The company began measuring television audiences in 1950, at a time when the medium was just getting off the ground. Just as with radio, a sampling of homes across the U.S. was used to develop ratings. This information was collected on a device that was attached to a television that recorded what was being watched. In 1953, the company began sending out diaries to a smaller sample of homes ("Nielsen families") within the survey to have them record what they had watched. This data was put together with information from the devices. This combination of data allowed the company to statistically estimate the number of Americans watching TV and the demographic breakdown of viewers. This became an important tool for advertisers and networks.
In the 1980s, the company launched a new measurement device known as the "people meter". The device resembles a remote control with buttons for each individual family member and extras for guests. Viewers push a button to signify when they are in the room and push it again when they leave, even if the TV is still on. This form of measurement was intended to provide a more accurate picture of who was watching and when.
In July 2008, Nielsen released the first in a series of quarterly reports, detailing video and TV usage across the ‘three screens’ – Television, Internet and Mobile devices. The A2/M2 Three Screen Report also includes trends in timeshifted viewing behavior and its relationship to online video viewing, a demographic breakdown of mobile video viewers and DVR penetration.
On 30 September 2016, Nielsen made its Digital Content Ratings available in full syndication for clients.
On 9 September 2016, Nielsen announced that it will retire its paper TV diaries by mid-2017 and provide all electronic measurement in its local television ratings.
Nielsen was acquired by the Dun & Bradstreet Company in 1984. In 1996, D&B divided the company into two separate companies: Nielsen Media Research, which was responsible for TV ratings, and AC Nielsen, which was responsible for consumer shopping trends and box-office data. In 1999, Nielsen Media Research was acquired by the Dutch publishing company VNU (Verenigde Nederlandse Uitgeverijen). VNU later acquired AC Nielsen and recombined the two businesses in 2001. In between, VNU sold off its newspaper properties to Wegener and its consumer magazines to Sanoma. The company's publishing arm also owned several publications including The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard magazine. VNU combined the Nielsen properties with other research and data collection units including BASES, Claritas, HCI and Spectra. VNU also acquired companies that added to its measurement capabilities.
Nielsen was a private company from 2006 through 2011. On 25 January 2011 the company listed itself on the New York Stock Exchange and issued an Initial Public Offering (IPO) that raised $1.8 billion in the largest private equity-backed U.S. IPO since 2006.
In 2006, VNU acquired a majority stake in Buzzmetrics, a company which measures consumer-generated media online. Under the new ownership, Nielsen bought the remaining shares of the company in 2007. In the same year, Nielsen acquired Telephia, which measures mobile media, and Bilesim Medya, a Turkish advertising intelligence firm.
In 2006, VNU was acquired by a group of six private equity firms: the American Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Blackstone Group, Carlyle Group and Hellman & Friedman, and Dutch equity firm AlpInvest Partners for £5bn. In the same year, the group hired David L. Calhoun, formerly of General Electric, as CEO. He renamed VNU as The Nielsen Company in 2007.
28 June 2007, Nielsen acquires Telephia, the leading provider of syndicated consumer research to the telecom and mobile media markets. This transaction will accelerate Nielsen's strategy of providing clients worldwide with the most accurate measurement and analysis of consumer behavior and media use across all platforms.
In 2008, Nielsen acquired IAG Research which measures viewer engagement with TV commercials. The same year, Nielsen made a strategic investment in NeuroFocus, a California firm applying neuroscience brainwave techniques for consumer research. The firm was later fully acquired by Nielsen in 2011 In 2009 and 2010, Nielsen sold its business magazines; its well-known entertainment properties went to the new company e5 Global Media.
In 2009, Nielsen acquired The Cambridge Group, a management consulting firm headquartered in Chicago. The Cambridge Group works with CEOs and top management teams to drive growth. The firm researches latent and emerging consumer demand, and applies the information to product, service and marketing innovation.
In June 2010, Nielsen paired with McKinsey & Company to create the social media consulting company NM Incite. NM Incite had operations in 13 global markets, including: US, UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, India, Brazil, Canada and Korea.
In February 2012, Nielsen launched The Demand Institute in collaboration with The Conference Board. The Demand Institute is a non-profit, non-advocacy organization focused on helping business and government leaders understand how consumer demand is evolving and shifting around the world.
In July 2012, Nielsen acquired the advertising tech company Vizu. The acquisition was made so that Nielsen can better analyze the effectiveness of online advertisement.
12 November 2012, Nielsen acquired SocialGuide, a leading provider of social TV measurement, analytics and audience engagement solutions.
On 17 December 2012, Nielsen disclosed that it would acquire Arbitron, a company primarily involved in radio audience measurement, for $1.3 billion. The successful acquisition completed on 30 September 2013.
On 17 June 2013, Nielsen announced that Onex Corp (TSX: OCX) had completed the acquisition of Nielsen Expositions for $950 million in cash consideration. Nielsen Expositions operated tradeshows in the United States. The company was renamed Emerald Expositions Inc. after the transaction.
26 February 2014, Nielsen acquires Nexium, a leader in retail in-store execution and sales analytics.
On 18 September 2014 Nielsen announced the acquisition of Indicus Analytics Pvt Ltd. This helped Nielsen to grow footprints in micromarkets & economics.
On 8 October 2014, Nielsen acquired Affinnova, an international media and marketing research firm. The Affinnova team joins Nielsen's legacy BASES team to form Nielsen's Innovation Practice area
22 January 2015, Nielsen acquires Brandbank, established world leader specialized in the process of digitally collecting, managing and distributing FMCG product and brand image content for retail syndication across in-store, print promotional and e-commerce platforms.
On 4 March 2015, Nielsen announced the acquisition of Exelate, a provider of data and technology to facilitate the buying and selling of advertising across programmatic platforms.
On 27 May 2015, Nielsen acquired Innerscope Research, which specialized in consumer neuroscience using biometrics, eye tracking and facial coding. Nielsen renamed its combined offering as Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience, and named Carl Marci as Chief Neuroscientist.
3 March 2016, Nielsen acquires Pointlogic, a global leader in marketing decision support systems that improve precision and allocation through innovative software.
On 10 March 2016, Nielsen acquired Mumbai-based mobile usage measurer Informate Mobile Intelligence for an undisclosed amount, in a move that will help the US consumer research company improve mobile measurement globally.
21 June 2016, Nielsen acquired Repucom, the global leader in sports measurement, evaluation and intelligence, expanding the company's sports offerings globally, making the company the premier provider of analytics and insights within the growing sports industry.
On 20 December 2016, Nielsen announced its agreement with Tribune Media Company to purchase Gracenote, a provider of media and entertainment metadata.
On 5 January 2017, The Carlyle Group acquired Claritas from Nielsen.
On 23 January 2017, the Stagwell Group announced that it acquired Nielsen's Harris brand and the Harris Poll through its Stagwell Media LLC.
On 1 February 2017, Nielsen completed its acquisition of Gracenote
On 23 February 2017, Nielsen acquired Rhiza, Inc., a Pittsburgh-based media and consumer analytics software firm.
In retail measurement, Nielsen's principal competitor in developed markets is Information Resources, Inc. In its consumer panel services and analytics services businesses, globally, competitors include GfK, Ipsos, Kantar and local companies in individual countries.
In U.S. television audience measurement, Nielsen's competitors include Rentrak and TiVo. Nielsen's principal competitor in television audience measurement outside of the United States is Kantar, with companies such as GfK and Ipsos also providing competition in select individual countries. Nielsen's primary competitor in digital audience and campaign measurement solutions in the United States is comScore.
In audio audience measurement, which is predominantly a U.S. business, Nielsen's principal competitors include Triton and Kantar.