Nielsen Cancels National Client Meeting, Cites Economy

Nielsen's TV ratings frequently play a role in canceling shows. Now Nielsen's top show is being canceled due to some declining ratings - credit ratings. A little more than a week after canceling a promising new out-of-home television audience measurement service due to concerns about the "current economic environment," Nielsen has canceled plans for its annual client meeting in 2009.

The event, which was set to take place March 11-13 in Las Vegas, has grown to be something of a boondoggle in recent years--in which Nielsen wined, dined and entertained clients, and spent more time promoting its vision and new products than discussing serious methodological issues surrounding its measurement of media audiences.

In an announcement sent to clients this afternoon, however, Nielsen implied that the economic concerns were more a function of its clients' fiscal situation than the Nielsen Company's.

"Due to the current economic environment, a very significant number of our clients have already informed us that they would be unable to attend," wrote Sara Erichson, executive vice president-media client services. "Based on that input, we determined that holding the meeting as planned was not the right decision."



She added that Nielsen will use "other vehicles" to share the content that it had been preparing for the canceled meeting, including conducting a series of regional meetings as well as "utilizing our online meeting capabilities."

Nielsen's attribution of client economic concerns is interesting, because the company has traditionally paid all expenses associated with the meetings--including hotels, dining and entertainment, with the exception of the actual travel costs, which were paid for by individual clients and their employers.

And that leads some Nielsen clients to suspect that at least part of the economic motives behind cancelling the meeting are cost savings for Nielsen, which has been investing in the expansion of other businesses, including internationally and in other media. Just this week, Nielsen announced the rollout of a radio audience measurement service in the U.S., marking the first time that it will produce radio ratings in this country since the 1960s.

On November 9th, Nielsen announced that it was canceling its new out-of-home television audience measurement venture with IMMI, explaining: "It has become clear that in the current climate, there is limited economic support for this new measurement service. As such, we believe it is prudent to suspend the out-of-home report at this time."

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