Nielsen N.V.

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Not to be confused with Nielsen Norman Group.
Nielsen Holdings N.V.
Traded as NYSENLSN
Industry Media
Founded 1923
Founder Arthur Nielsen
Headquarters New York City, USA
Key people
Dave Calhoun, Chairman
Mitch Barns, CEO
Rick Kash, Vice Chair
Brian West, COO
Jamere Jackson, CFO
Jim Cuminale, Chief Legal
Mark Leiter, Chief Strategy
Mary Liz Finn, Chief HR
Steve Hasker, Global Pres.
John Lewis, Global Pres.
Mark Blake, EVP
Katie Burke, EVP
Paul Donato, EVP
Karen Kornbluh, EVP
D. Sangeeta, EVP
Products Consumer information
Consumer research
Market measurement
Revenue Increase$6.288 billion (2014)[1]
Increase$970 million (2014)[1]
Number of employees
40,000 (2014)

Nielsen Holdings N.V. is an American global information and measurement company with headquarters in New York (USA) and Diemen,[2] the Netherlands. Nielsen is active in over 100 countries and employs approximately 40,000 people worldwide. Total revenues were $6.3 billion in 2014.[1]

Company information[edit]

Nielsen is a leading[3] global information and measurement company that enables companies to understand consumers and consumer behavior. Nielsen measures and monitors what consumers watch (programming, advertising) and what consumers buy (categories, brands, products) on a global and local basis. The company has a presence in approximately 100 countries spread across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Middle East, North America, South America and Russia.

David L. Calhoun is Nielsen's Executive Chairman and Mitch Barns is Nielsen's Chief Executive Officer. Prior to joining Nielsen 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.

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 their business into two divisions: What Consumers Buy and What Consumers Watch [4]

What consumers buy[edit]

Nielsen's Buy division (approx. two-thirds 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. 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. They accomplish this by purchasing and analyzing huge amounts of retail data that measures what is being sold in the store, and they combine it with household panel data that captures everything that is brought into the home. They also can provide insights into how changes in product offerings, pricing or marketing would change sales. Major clients include The Coca-Cola Company, Nestle S.A., The Procter & Gamble Company, Unilever Group and Walmart.

What consumers watch[edit]

Nielsen's Watch division (approx. one-third of global revenues) primarily measures what consumers are watching (and listening to) across some devices: TV, radio, computers, 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.[4]

Company history[edit]

Arthur C. Nielsen and the invention of "Market Share"[edit]

Arthur C. Nielsen founded the AC Nielsen Company in 1923 with the idea of selling engineering performance surveys. It was the first company to offer market research.[5] 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"[5] Arthur C. Nielsen is credited with coining this business term.

Radio and television[edit]

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.[6] 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.[6] 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.[5] 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.[5] 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.[7]

In July 2008,[8] 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.

Mergers, acquisitions, strategic alliances and divestitures[edit]

Nielsen was acquired by the Dun & Bradstreet Company in 1984.[9] 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.[10] In 1999, Nielsen Media Research was acquired by the Dutch publishing company VNU (Verenigde Nederlandse Uitgeverijen).[11] 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.

In 2004, Nielsen began a joint venture called AGB Nielsen Media Research with WPP Group's AGB Group, a European competitor which provides similar services.[12]

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.[13] In the same year, Nielsen acquired Telephia, which measures mobile media,[14] and Bilesim Medya, a Turkish advertising intelligence firm.[15]

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[16] for £5bn.[17] In the same year, the group hired David L. Calhoun, formerly of General Electric, as CEO.[18] He renamed VNU as The Nielsen Company in 2007.

In 2006, VNU sold its business publications division for €320m (£210m) to venture capital group 3i, which then sold the UK division (VNU Business Publications Ltd) to Incisive Media.[17]

In 2008, Nielsen acquired IAG Research which measures viewer engagement with TV commercials.[19] 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[20] 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.[21][22] NM Incite has operations in 13 global markets, including: US, UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, India, Brazil, Canada and Korea.[23]

In August 2011, Nielsen acquired Marketing Analytics, Inc. The acquisition strengthened Nielsen's marketing ROI and marketing mix capabilities.[citation needed]

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.[24]

On December 18, 2012, Nielsen announced that it would acquire Arbitron, a company primarily involved in radio audience measurement, for $1.26 billion.[25]

On June 17, 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.

On February 3, 2014, Nielsen announced the acquisition of Harris Interactive, Inc. (NASDAQ:HPOL). Harris is known widely for The Harris Poll.

Becoming a public company[edit]

Nielsen was a private company from 2006 through 2011. On January 25, 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.[26]


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ "Profile - Nielsen N.V.". Yahoo! Finance. September 13, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Nielsen named #1 of Top 50 largest market research firms in the world; American Marketing Association 2011 Honomichl Report". June 20, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Nielsen 10-K Report 2011 February 22, 2012
  5. ^ a b c d Gillespie, Mary. “Nielsen makes viewers count by watching them watch TV.” Chicago Sun-Times, April 9, 1989
  6. ^ a b Basler, Barbara. “A.C. Nielsen, Who Devised System That Rates TV Programs, Dead.” The New York Times, June 4, 1980
  7. ^ Kaplan, Peter W. “Nielsen to Try New Audience-Survey Device.” The New York Times, October 16, 1985
  8. ^ "Advertising - Whichever Screen, People Are Watching -". 
  9. ^ D&B Company History
  10. ^ Deogun, Nikhil. “VNU Nears Deal to Acquire ACNielsen.” The Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2000
  11. ^ Pope, Kyle. “VNU to Buy Nielsen Media for $2.5 Billion — Accord to Help Dutch Firm Speed Up Its Transition To Information Concern.” The Wall Street Journal, August 17, 1999
  12. ^ WPP Group. (5 October 2004) AGBNielsen Research created. Press release.
  13. ^ Nielsen to Acquire Remaining Shares of Buzzmetrics
  14. ^ Dickson, Glen and Eggerton, John. “Nielsen Closes on Telephia Deal”. Broadcasting & Cable August 10, 2007
  15. ^ Plunket, Jack W. (2008). Plunkett's Advertising and Branding Industry Almanac 2008: Advertising and Branding Industry Market Research, Statistics, Trends and Leading Companies. Plunkett Research, Ltd. ISBN 1-59392-109-8. 
  16. ^ Singer, Jason and Berman, Dennis K. “VNU Gets Board Approval for Sale To Group of Private-Equity Firms.” The Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2006
  17. ^ a b Incisive to buy VNU Business Publications, The Daily Telegraph, February 6, 2007
  18. ^ Siklos, Richard. “Made to Measure”. Fortune, February 20, 2008
  19. ^ Elliott, Stuart. “Nielsen’s Latest Purchase is Audience Research Firm”. The New York Times, April 8, 2008
  20. ^ Holmes,Gary (February 7, 2008). "Nielsen Makes Strategic Investment in NeuroFocus, an Innovative Leader in Neuromarketing Research". Nielsen Media Research
  21. ^ "Nielsen Pairs With McKinsey for Social Media Consulting" June 15, 2010
  22. ^ Zach Hofer-Shall "Nielsen Joins Forces With McKinsey For Social Intelligence Consulting" "Forrester Blogs" June 14, 2010
  23. ^ NM Incite "About Us"
  24. ^ Ha, Anthony. July 2, 2012. "Nielsen Acquires Vizu To Measure Online Ad Effectiveness"
  25. ^ "Nielsen to Branch Out With Arbitron". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 December 2012. 
  26. ^ Spears, Lee (January 26, 2011). "Nielsen Holdings, Demand Media Shares Gain After IPOs". Bloomberg. 

External links[edit]