Nielsen to Invest More in Streaming, Live TV Ratings Product

Nielsen Holdings will increase spending to improve how it measures TV audiences, especially its new Nielsen ONE product, said chief financial officer Linda Zukauckas. The news follows Nielsen’s $2.4 billion sale of Global Connect (since renamed NielsenIQ), which measures retail shopping for packaged goods companies, to Advent International Corporation. Nielsen ONE combines streaming and live TV ratings and is due to unveil next year. Nielsen hopes it will be a U.S. ratings standard by 2024 and, soon, a global standard.

The Wall Street Journal reports that other companies that measure TV viewership include Comscore and startups such as TVision (not related to a T-Mobile US unit of the same name). At financial services firm Jefferies, senior vice president of equity research Surinder Thind noted that, “current metrics for traditional TV viewing aren’t comparable to those used to measure streaming, rendering a new system necessary.”

Zukauckas said that, “top of mind for me is sustaining the business performance.” A Nielsen spokesperson revealed that the company spent about $547 million, about 8.7 percent of revenue, on capital expenditures last year.

According to Zukauckas, the “percentage won’t change much this year, but Nielsen still allocates more for capex as revenues rise.” She added that, “she is curtailing investments in products with less potential for revenue growth and redirecting some of that cash toward Nielsen ONE.”

Without providing details, she said one such cutback is to invest less “in a division that measures audiences in rural U.S. markets compared with previous years when it upgraded the service.”

According to Thind, “Nielsen ONE is expected to garner wide uptake from advertisers and media companies, which would allow its owner to put more money into dividends and share repurchases.” “The bulk of the time, energy and money should be going toward the development of Nielsen ONE because this is fundamentally the future of the business,” he added.

Nielsen declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.06 per share on April 22; the company “last repurchased its own stock in 2018, when it bought back about $70 million.” It currently “has $228 million still available for repurchases under an authorization that expires in 2025.”

This week, the company “said it is planning a $1 billion debt refinancing, an effort to pay down existing loans and have more cash on hand.” This month, its Q1 report showed a 2.5 percent rise in revenue to $863 million compared to the same period last year; the company predicted it will see revenue growth of 2 percent to 3 percent this year.

It also “posted net income of $573 million, up from a net loss of $18 million a year earlier, due partly to the separation of the market-analytics business.”