Nielsen Holdings PLC

Not to be confused with Nielsen Norman Group.
Nielsen Holdings PLC
Traded as NYSE: NLSN
S&P 500 Component
Industry Media
Founded August 24, 1923 (1923-08-24)
Founder Arthur Nielsen
Headquarters United Kingdom[1]
Key people
James Attwood
(Executive Chairman)[2]
Mitch Barns
Steve Hasker
Jamere Jackson
Products Consumer information
Consumer research
Market measurement
Revenue Decrease$6.2 billion (2015)[5]
Decrease$975 million (2015)[5]
Number of employees
44,000 (2015)

Nielsen Holdings PLC (formerly known as Nielsen N.V.) is a global information, data and measurement[6] company with headquarters in the United States. Nielsen operates in over 100 countries and employs approximately 44,000 people worldwide. Total revenues were $6.2 billion in 2015.[5]

The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and is currently a component of the S&P 500.[6]

In 2016, American Marketing Association ranked Nielsen number 1 among top 50 Market Research Firms in the United States.[7]



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.[6] The Company was originally incorporated in the Netherlands and later was purchased on May 24, 2006 by a consortium of private equity firms (collectively, the “Sponsors”).[6]

Merger and listing

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”.[6] On August 31, 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”).[6] 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.[6]

Company information

Headquartered in the United Kingdom,[1] Nielsen is a leading[8] 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.[9]

The company's operations span developing and emerging markets worldwide, in more than 100 countries. According to SEC records, on February 26, 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.[10]

James Attwood Jr. is Nielsen's Executive Chairman,[2] 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.[11] Barnes joined Nielsen in 1997 and has held various roles in Europe, Asia, and North America leading major parts of the business.[12]

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).[13] 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.

What consumers Buy

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.[9] 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.[9]

What consumers Watch

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. The market is in the middle of an important transition: Consumers have a growing array of options for viewing their favorite content, and this is fundamentally changing the businesses of television, advertising and measurement. Nielsen’s Total Audience Measurement system[14] enables media companies and advertisers to make the most of the evolving media landscape, providing them with a comprehensive view of their audience for both ads and content, in the form of independent, comparable, de-duplicated measurement across all screens and platforms. 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.[15] 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.[9]

Company history

Arthur C. Nielsen and the invention of "Market Share"

Arthur C. Nielsen founded the AC Nielsen Company in August 1923[16][17] with the idea of selling engineering performance surveys. It was the first company to offer market research.[18] 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"[18] Arthur C. Nielsen is credited with coining this business term.

Radio and television

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.[19] 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.[19] 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.[18] 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.[18] 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.[20]

In July 2008,[21] 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.

Private equity

Nielsen was acquired by the Dun & Bradstreet Company in 1984.[22] 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.[23] In 1999, Nielsen Media Research was acquired by the Dutch publishing company VNU (Verenigde Nederlandse Uitgeverijen).[24] 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.

Becoming a public company

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.[25]

Mergers, acquisitions, strategic alliances and divestitures

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.[26]

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.[27] In the same year, Nielsen acquired Telephia, which measures mobile media,[28] and Bilesim Medya, a Turkish advertising intelligence firm.[29]

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[30] for £5bn.[31] In the same year, the group hired David L. Calhoun, formerly of General Electric, as CEO.[32] 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.[31]

June 28, 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.[33]

In 2008, Nielsen acquired IAG Research which measures viewer engagement with TV commercials.[34] 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[35] 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.[36][37] NM Incite had operations in 13 global markets, including: US, UK, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, India, Brazil, Canada and Korea.[38]

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

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.[39]

November 12, 2012, Nielsen acquired SocialGuide, a leading provider of social TV measurement, analytics and audience engagement solutions.[40]

On December 17, 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 September 30, 2013.[41]

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). This allowed Nielsen to take ownership of The Harris Poll.[42]

February 26, 2014, Nielsen acquires Nexium, a leader in retail in-store execution and sales analytics.[43]

On September 18, 2014 Nielsen announced the acquisition of Indicus Analytics Pvt Ltd. This helped Nielsen to grow footprints in micromarkets & economics

On October 8, 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[44]

January 22, 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.[45]

On March 4, 2015, Nielsen announced the acquisition of Exelate, a provider of data and technology to facilitate the buying and selling of advertising across programmatic platforms.[46]

On May 27, 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 Dr. Carl Marci as Chief Neuroscientist.[47]

March 3, 2016, Nielsen acquires Pointlogic, a global leader in marketing decision support systems that improve precision and allocation through innovative software.[48]

On March 10, 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.[49]

June 21, 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.[50]

Key competitors

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.

Corporate affairs and culture

FIFA has signed up with Nielsen to provide official market research for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.[51]


  1. 1 2 Nielsen Proposes To Move Incorporation From Netherlands To United Kingdom Feb. 26, 2015
  2. 1 2 Nielsen Board Of Directors Elects James A. Attwood, Jr. Chairman Jan. 4, 2016
  3. Lynch, Jason Nielsen's New COO Explains Why Total Audience Measurement Is Taking So Long AdWeek. March 24, 2016
  4. Nielsen Announces Management Changes February 24, 2014
  5. 1 2 3 "Nielsen Holdings plc - Nielsen Reports 4th Quarter And Full Year 2015 Results; 38TH Consecutive Quarter of Revenue Growth". Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Nielsen 2015 Annual Report" (PDF). Nielsen Holdings PLC. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  7. "The AMA Gold Report: 2016 Top 50 Market Research Firms". American Marketing Association. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  8. "Nielsen named #1 of Top 50 largest market research firms in the world; American Marketing Association 2011 Honomichl Report" (PDF). June 20, 2012.
  9. 1 2 3 4 Nielsen 2015 Annual Report
  10. SEC Record February 26, 2015
  11. Thielman, Sam (6 Nov 2013). "Nielsen's Own Mitch Barns Will Succeed Outside Hire David Calhoun as CEO". AdWeek. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  12. Industry Veteran Mitch Barns To Be Nielsen’s Next Chief Executive Officer November 6, 2013
  13. SEC Annual Report
  14. Total Audience Measurement
  15. Nielsen 10-K Report 2011 February 22, 2012
  16. "Nielsen Company 90 Years Celebration Reception In Chicago Wednesday August 21 - And The Ordinary People Said". ChicagoNow. 2013-08-20. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
  17. "Nielsen Celebrates Chicago Roots with 90th Anniversary Party - Splash Magazines - Los Angeles". Lasplash. 2013-08-20. Retrieved 2016-04-12.
  18. 1 2 3 4 Gillespie, Mary. "Nielsen makes viewers count by watching them watch TV." Chicago Sun-Times, April 9, 1989
  19. 1 2 Basler, Barbara. "A.C. Nielsen, Who Devised System That Rates TV Programs, Dead." The New York Times, June 4, 1980
  20. Kaplan, Peter W. "Nielsen to Try New Audience-Survey Device." The New York Times, October 16, 1985
  21. "Whichever Screen, People Are Watching". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  22. Deogun, Nikhil. "VNU Nears Deal to Acquire ACNielsen." The Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2000
  23. 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
  24. Spears, Lee (January 26, 2011). "Nielsen Holdings, Demand Media Shares Gain After IPOs". Bloomberg.
  25. "AGBNielsen Research created". WPP. Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  26. Archived June 9, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. Dickson, Glen and Eggerton, John. "Nielsen Closes on Telephia Deal". Broadcasting & Cable August 10, 2007
  28. 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.
  29. 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
  30. 1 2 Incisive to buy VNU Business Publications, The Daily Telegraph, February 6, 2007
  31. Siklos, Richard. "Made to Measure". Fortune, February 20, 2008
  32. Nielsen Completes Acquisition of Telephia, Inc. PR Newswire, August 10, 2007
  33. Elliott, Stuart. "Nielsen’s Latest Purchase is Audience Research Firm". The New York Times, April 8, 2008
  34. Holmes,Gary (February 7, 2008). "Nielsen Makes Strategic Investment in NeuroFocus, an Innovative Leader in Neuromarketing Research". Nielsen Media Research
  35. Archived July 1, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  36. Zach Hofer-Shall "Nielsen Joins Forces With McKinsey For Social Intelligence Consulting" "Forrester Blogs" June 14, 2010
  37. Archived August 18, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  38. Ha, Anthony. July 2, 2012. "Nielsen Acquires Vizu To Measure Online Ad Effectiveness"
  39. Nielsen, NM Incite Acquire Socialguide November 12, 2012
  40. "NIELSEN ACQUIRES ARBITRON". Nielsen. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  41. "Harris Interactive Joins Nielsen". Retrieved 2015-11-30.
  42. Nielsen Bolsters Shopper Marketing Credentials With Acquisition Of Nexium February 26, 2014
  43. "Nielsen Acquires Affinnova". The Nielsen Company. Retrieved 27 May 2015.
  44. Nielsen Aquires Brandbank January 22, 2015
  45. "Nielsen Acquires Exelate". The Nielsen Company. Retrieved 4 Aug 2015.
  46. Dooley, Roger. "Nielsen Doubles Down On Neuro". Retrieved 2015-09-30.
  47. Nielsen Aquires Pointlogic March 3, 2016
  48. Nielsen buys Mumbai-based mobile usage measurer Informate Mobile Intelligence March 10, 2016
  49. Nielsen Completes Acquisition Of Repucom June 21, 2016
  50. "Nielsen to provide official market research for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and 2018 FIFA World Cup". FIFA. Retrieved 24 October 2016.

External links

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