Nielsen reportedly close to being acquired for $15B

TV ratings stalwart Nielsen is reportedly close to being acquired for $15 billion including debt.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a group of private equity firms including Elliott Management are in advanced talks to buy the company. Nielsen’s stock spiked more than 30% in late afternoon trading following the report.

As the report points out, Elliott has been a stakeholder in Nielsen since 2018. The firm has previously pushed Nielsen to explore a potential sale.

Nielsen has been under pressure from media companies to update its TV measurement strategy in recent months. The company had previously announced a broadband-only homes implementation date of October 2021 but pushed implementation to January 2022 so it could publish an official BBO UE that would be audited and reviewed by the Media Rating Council (MRC). In addition to delivering one month of impact data, the implementation included all BBO homes, which increases reporting sample sizes and capture impressions that may be missing, especially for sports and OTT.

Last year, the MRC served Nielsen with two votes of no confidence and suspended its accreditation.

“While we are disappointed that the situation has come to this, we believe these are the proper actions for the MRC to take at this time,” said MRC CEO and executive director George Ivie in a statement. “MRC’s Board of Directors, which represents an extremely broad range of industry constituencies, and includes advertisers, agencies, and media companies of all types, is strongly unified in its positions on these matters.”

In August of 2021, Discovery CEO David Zaslav slammed Nielsen over its “antiquated system of measurement.”

“You have Google and Facebook, you have these technology companies. They know exactly who’s watching, they know exactly who they are, what they’re buying, what they want to read,” he said during a MoffettNathanson investor conference. “And we’re dealing with this antiquated system of measurement that advertisers love because they can rely on something that fundamentally undercounts all of us. As great as our industry is, we haven’t been able to get Nielsen to get their act together.”