Nielsen, the incumbent measurement provider for the U.S. linear TV marketplace, will sell to private equity.
The company said Monday it accepted a takeover bid from a group of PE companies led by Evergreen Coast Capital Corporation, an affiliate of activist investment firm Elliott Management, which has been pushing to take Nielsen private.
The all-cash deal values Nielsen at $16 billion, or roughly $28 per share, including debt. The transaction is subject to approval from Nielsen shareholders and regulators but is expected to close in the second half of 2022.
The agreement comes after Nielsen rejected a previous $9 billion takeover bid by the group that it claimed undervalued the company.
News of the sale comes just ahead of upfront season, as Nielsen faces ongoing scrutiny from the advertising and media industry about the viability of its products.
Advertisers and media owners have been frustrated by Nielsen’s inability to track cross-screen viewership for years. The long-simmering dissatisfaction boiled over in August, when the Media Ratings Council stripped Nielsen of its national and local TV measurement accreditations after the company failed to accurately count household viewership during the pandemic. Nielsen had previously lost accreditation for its digital ad ratings currency as well.
Nielsen promised to reveal a fully functional, cross-platform currency under the new banner NielsenOne in 2024. But that isn’t fast enough for many big advertisers and media owners, which are already testing new currencies and measurement providers during this year’s upfronts.
NBCUniversal, for instance, announced last week it would use iSpotTV as a functional currency during the 2022 upfront after working with the provider to measure viewership during Super Bowl LVI and the Beijing Winter Olympics. Ad buyers are moving on as well, testing the viability of providers such as VideoAmp to offer a fuller picture of their clients’ ad delivery.
But not all ad buyers and sellers are writing off Nielsen, with most continuing to use the provider in some form for the foreseeable future. As for Evergreen Coast Capital, the firm still sees potential for Nielsen to dominate in the measurement space with the development of NielsenOne.
“After months of deep market analysis, industry diligence and management reviews, we are firmly convinced Nielsen will continue to be the gold standard for audience measurement as it executes on the NielsenOne roadmap,” said Jesse Cohn, managing partner at Evergreen, and Marc Steinberg, senior portfolio manager at Elliott, in a statement.
“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.”