Frenemies With Benefits: comScore, Nielsen Deal Seen As Positive For Online Ad Market

Wednesday’s surprise patent litigation settlement between online audience measurement giants comScore and Nielsen is expected to accelerate innovation, creativity, improvements, and possibly even better standards for the Internet advertising marketplace. That was the initial takeaway from observers who were trying to figure out the ramifications of the settlement, which one influential Wall Street group said made the two previous arch rivals, “frenemies.”

The settlement has the power, Deutsche Bank securities analyst Matt Chesler wrote, “to change the scope of the relationship between the two fierce competitors, which is the potentially more interest long-term implication.”

What the long-term will ultimately will bring will depend on a number of market developments, but in the short-term a few things are very clear, Chesler noted, including removing an unnecessary distraction for both companies that ran up significant time and legal costs that could’ve been better spent developing systems and services and improving methodologies for online advertisers, agencies and publishers.

In particular, Chesler said the deal is likely to help accelerate the deployment and acceptance of Nielsen’s new Online Campaign Ratings service, which Nielsen has been pushing hard to make for the online advertising industry, what its TV ratings are for the television industry, a “currency.”

Another clear near-term result is that comScore’s stock value will dilute by about 3%, due to the $19 million in shares it is giving to Nielsen as a form of payment to license its patents for online audience measurement.

Interestingly, no one has mentioned any questions of the need for regulatory approval or potential antitrust implications from the settlement, which makes the two dominant online industry suppliers de facto collaborators and shared equity owners. But the settlement does appear to be designed to keep the two companies from getting two cozy – or potentially more hostile – depending on how you look at it.

Citing a clause that prevents Nielsen from acquiring or selling comScore shares without comScore’s consent, Deutsche Bank’s Chesler, noted, “So any hopes of a hostile takeover are put off for at least a year, not that we were expecting one.”

The most positive aspect, he said, are the implications for better online industry standards that could benefit the “broader advertising ecosystem.

“In reality, this may also create more of a two horse race in digital measurement which could have ramifications for the balance of power across the industry and with customers.”


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