Updated: FTC Consent Creates New 'Blueprint' For Nielsen, Technically Puts It in JV With comScore
One of the ironic results of Nielsen’s decree settling the Federal Trade Commission's review of its $1.3 billion acquisition of Arbitron is that it effectively enters into a joint venture with rival comScore to develop a new multiplatform measurement service.
"The relationship will change. We will become a provider of capabilities to a licensee,” Nielsen CFO Brian West told analysts and the press during a call explaining the terms of the settlement. West was referring to the pre-existing joint venture relationship Arbitron had with comScore to develop that service, code-named “Project Blueprint,” which has agreed to continue for up to eight years as part of the decree.
Nielsen CEO David Calhoun said Nielsen is “obliged” to sustain that relationship, even if it decides down the road that it no longer wants to support the portable people meter technology that is one of the core elements of the service, which utilizes a hybrid method to measure audiences to TV, radio, online, mobile and out-of-home locations.
It wouldn’t be the first time Nielsen operated a joint venture with a rival. For years, Nielsen and Arbitron have been partners in local newspaper measurement service Scarborough Research, and the two companies previously operated an ambitious single-source measurement service, Project Apollo, before they agreed to shut it down due to high costs and lack of industry support. Nielsen was also in a joint-venture partner with rival GfK MRI called the Media Behavior Institute, which was recently shut down.
Meanwhile, the Nielsen executives implied that as part of the FTC decree, they would likely be required to license the portable people meter technology that was the subject of the consent, to other third parties that meet the same criteria, suggesting the possibility that other entities could mount a service that would compete with Project Blueprint.
As a side note, Nielsen's Calhoun told analysts he didn't believe anyone would ever develop that kind of ambitious single-source measurement -- a panel measuring both the product consumption and media usage of the same respondents -- in an age of “Big Data.”
“Single-source is going to take other forms,” he said, implying future solutions might be more about integrating data from disparate sources than creating a single-source respondent measurement panel.
On another note, Calhoun said Nielsen is eager to begin integrating Arbitron's portable people meter technology into its measurement of out-of-home media, but said it would be up to Nielsen's clients to determine whether it gets included in TV advertising “currency.” Historically, advertisers and agencies have been reluctant to make out-of-home audiences and explicit part of their TV audience estimates, asserting that it was an implied part of what they've always paid for, even if it wasn't measured.
A bigger impact of the out-of-home measurement, Calhoun suggested, might be in retooling so-called “marketing mix models” that many marketers use to help determine how much of their marketing budgets they allocate to various media.
In a final ironic note, the Nielsen executives said that Arbitron, which is primarily known for its audience measurement of an audio medium -- radio -- would be reported as part of Nielsen's “Watch” business operations.