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Nielsen Sold to Private Equity Groups for $16 Billion

What a difference $1 billion makes. Media measurement giant Nielsen March 29 announced it has agreed to be sold to two private equity groups in an all-cash deal worth $16 billion, which includes the assumption of all outstanding debt. The sale is expected to close in the second quarter following regulatory approval, which includes the United Kingdom.

The sales agreement with Evergreen Coast Capital Corporation and Brookfield Business Partners follows on the heels of a previously rejected $15 billion deal Nielsen contended didn’t “adequately compensate” shareholders for Nielsen’s growth prospects. That deal included Nielsen investor Elliott Management Corp., which is affiliated with current suitor Evergreen.

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“After a thorough assessment, the board determined that this transaction represents an attractive outcome for our shareholders by providing a cash takeout at a substantial premium, while supporting Nielsen’s commitment to our clients, employees and stakeholders,” chairman James Attwood said in a statement. “The consortium sees the full potential of Nielsen’s leadership position in the media industry and the unique value we deliver for our clients worldwide.”

The deal comes as Nielsen has seen it legacy TV ratings business model challenged by media giant clients, including NBCUniversal, WarnerMedia, and Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS), who questioned Nielsen’s ability to properly adapt to tracking digital consumers, including subscription streaming video consumers.

Nielsen last year launched branded weekly top 10 charts for most-streamed content across household televisions — a metrics largely dominated by Netflix.

Regardless, senior executives at Evergreen and Brookfield say the Nielsen brand still commands respect in the crowded media measurement ecosystem.

“After months of deep market analysis, industry diligence and management reviews, we are firmly convinced that Nielsen will continue to be the gold standard for audience measurement,” said Jesse Cohn, a managing partner, and Marc Steinberg, a senior portfolio manager, with Evergreen and Elliott, respectively. “Having first invested in Nielsen nearly four years ago, we have a unique appreciation for the company’s ongoing relevance to the global, digital-first media ecosystem. Today’s outcome represents a significant win for Nielsen’s shareholders and for the business itself, as our multibillion-dollar investment will help Nielsen reinforce its transformation at this critical inflection point.”

Ashwin Navin, co-founder/CEO of Samba TV, said the Nielsen acquisition is evidence of the demand that we and others are seeing from the capital markets to fund the next generation of media measurement companies.

“The ad industry is moving to a multi-currency future, where omni-channel measurement systems built on first-party data need to capture everything that viewers see on a global scale,” Navin said. “Nielsen’s legacy in measurement is quite strong and going private should give the company the time and resources needed to retool and develop future-proof solutions that play in this multi-currency world.”

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