Nielsen Out-Of-Home Goes Out-Of-Business, First Research Casualty Of Faltering Economy

bar In a sign that weakening economic conditions are beginning to impact the media research business, Nielsen Co. and IMMI Friday shut down their recently launched out-of-home TV viewing measurement service. The service, which was launched with much fanfare earlier this year, was created to fill a long-standing void in the TV marketplace for accurate measurement of viewing that takes place outside of Nielsen's traditional in-home TV measurement panels. Despite demand from some high-profile networks, especially sports-oriented programmers like ESPN and Turner Sports, and a commitment from Publicis' Zenith Media unit to use the new service, Nielsen and IMMI said they were suspending the service due to economic concerns.

"It has become clear that in the current climate, there is limited economic support for this new measurement service," they said in a notice sent to clients and the press on Friday. "As such, we believe it is prudent to suspend the out-of-home report at this time. Consequently, our final national report will be through November 9, 2008."



The shutdown comes as the TV viewing population is becoming more mobile than ever, and as Nielsen has been pushing to measure both traditional TV and other forms of video programming anywhere and everywhere a consumer is exposed to it, including online, on mobile handsets, and even in dedicated out-of-home locations. In April, during Media magazines Digital Out-of-Home conference, Nielsen unveiled plans for a series of new out-of-home video ratings reports measuring an array of place-based video networks.

There was no indication in Friday's announcement that Nielsen plans to cut back on its so-called A2/M2 ("anytime/anywhere") TV measurement initiative, but the closure of its venture with IMMI is not an auspicious sign. It also seems to disprove the logic that research, unlike the overall advertising marketplace, might be more resilient to economic downturns. It also comes as another major media and marketing research player, WPP Group, is poised to close on its $1.6 billion acquisition of TNS. WPP chief Martin Sorrell has often cited the agency holding company's diversification into research as a hedge against the vagaries of a volatile advertising marketplace.

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