VNU Nielsen Media deal puts UK TV contract in spotlight

The future of the UK TV audience research contract run by BARB came under the spotlight this week. It follows the $2.7bn (&£1.69m) deal by Dutch publisher VNU to buy Nielsen Media Research, the monopoly supplier of TV audience ratings in the US.

Nielsen Media Research has virtually no presence in the UK, but observers are weighing up how its new ownership will affect its chances of winning the UK contract – the biggest market research contract in the UK.

This is currently held by TNS – better known by its previous name AGB – which is seen as the front runner to retain the contract.

Serious competition is expected from a consortium of WPP-owned media research agencies and GFk, which has the German and Austrian contracts.

Nielsen Media Research, which was listed on the New York stock exchange, was once part of a research empire that included its retail data sister company AC Nielsen and a company called SRG, which is influential in South-east Asia, but these demerged in 1996.

NMR has continued to co-operate with the other two research companies since it was divided, and the industry will be watching to see if this continues after the VNU purchase.

Harold Lind, a media consultant to TNS, says: “It may not matter if the man in the moon owns NMR. But the whole media research business will be looking to see if the VNU deal will have any effect on the BARB contract.”

Andy Pearch, managing director at The Billett Consultancy, said the deal showed the value of research in the age of TV and PC convergence.

He says: “Everyone is trying to second guess the future. A research company that has cracked the internet, that can measure whether TV viewers will watch an ad then turn to a web page to buy online for example, is a very attractive buy.”


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