What Is the Nielsen Company?

The Nielsen Company is an information, data, and market measurement firm. As of May 2010, the Nielsen Company is part of Nielsen Holdings plc. Although Nielsen is an American company, it provides market research and analyses of media and viewer interactions globally. Its worldwide headquarters are in New York City, and its regional headquarters for North America are located in Chicago.

Nielsen attempts to provide its clients with valuable insights into consumer behavior and marketing information. It accomplishes this through data collection and measurement methods that evaluate what consumers watch and what they buy. The company is best known for its Nielsen ratings, which measure the audiences for television, radio, and newspapers in media markets.

Key Takeaways

  • The Nielsen Company is an information, data, and market measurement firm.
  • Nielsen attempts to provide its clients with valuable insights into consumer behavior and marketing information by collecting data that measures what consumers watch and what they buy.
  • The company is best known for its Nielsen ratings, which measure the audiences for television, radio, and newspapers in media markets.
  • Investors and companies use Nielsen's ratings to predict consumer trends.
  • Through its market research tool, the Homescan Consumer Panel (now called the National Consumer Panel (NCP), Nielsen also measures the shopping and media behavior of millions of consumers around the world.

Understanding the Nielsen Company

The company was founded by Arthur C. Nielsen Sr. in 1923, and it was incorporated in 1929. Investors and companies use Nielsen's ratings to predict consumer trends. Nielsen's ratings are also used by other industries, including television, radio, consumer packaged goods and retail, advertising agencies, internet companies, music, video games, and sports.

In the 1920s, the company began providing analysis of brand-based advertising. In the 1930s, the company extended its analysis to the radio market. In 1947, it expanded its reporting on the radio market to include the total audience, average audience, cumulative audience, and homes per dollar spent for time and talent for the top 20 radio shows.

Then, in 1950, Nielsen extended its ratings to the television industry using the same techniques that it had used for evaluating radio programming. Nielsen's methodology is now the standard way to evaluate television, radio, and newspaper audiences around the world.

Arthur C. Nielsen Sr., the founder of the Nielsen Company, helped pioneer key market research tools, including the concept of market share, by going beyond conventional consumer questionnaires and having auditors actually survey store shelves and accounting books to determine sales patterns.

In 1996, Nielsen split off its rating operations into a separate company, called Nielsen Media Research (NMR), which operated as an independent company until it was acquired by the Dutch conglomerate Verenigde Nederlandse Uitgeverijen (VNU) in 1999.

Through its market research tool, the Homescan Consumer Panel (now called the National Consumer Panel (NCP), Nielsen also measures the shopping and media behavior of millions of consumers around the world. Homescan tracks all retail and grocery store purchases by consumers, which allows researchers to link purchasing habits to household demographic data.

Nielsen’s Financials

Between 2006 and 2011, Nielsen was a private company. On Jan. 25, 2011, the company issued an initial public offering (IPO) that raised $1.8 billion; at the time, it was the largest private equity-backed U.S. IPO since 2006. Nielson is now listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and is a component of the S&P 500.

On Aug. 31, 2015, Nielsen N.V., a Dutch public company listed on the New York Stock Exchange, merged with Nielsen Holdings plc (by way of a cross-border merger under the European Cross-Border Merger Directive). Nielsen Holdings plc was the surviving company.

On March 5, 2021, Nielsen announced its results for the quarter ended March 31, 2021. Net income from continuing operations increased 89% to $106 million (compared to $56 million in the first quarter of 2020). Adjusted earnings per share were $0.47 for the first quarter, compared to $0.36 per share in the prior-year period. Adjusted EBITDA was $388 million, compared to $326 million in the first quarter of 2020.

Nielsen Company FAQs

What Type of Marketing Research Is Nielsen?

Nielsen measures media audiences, including television, radio, theatre, films, and newspapers.

What Is Nielsen Data?

Nielsen offers a data management platform called Data as a Service (DaaS). Nielsen DaaS offers 300 integrated media and marketing platforms. It is intended to help companies gain insights about their consumers by providing access to Nielsen audience data across more than 60,000 segments globally.

Nielsen allows companies to customize their consumer characteristics, including demographics, psychographics, mobile, online, TV, over-the-top (OTT) TV and audio behavior, spending, store visits, basket size, and product purchases.

Nielsen DaaS also offers insights on fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), travel, telecom, retail, auto, finance, and business-to-business (B2B) audiences.

How Does Nielsen Make Money?

Nielsen makes its money by selling its data, as well as its services, which include analytics, consulting, and reporting.

What Is a Nielsen Family?

Nielsen asks certain individuals to be part of its company panels. Panels are made up of individuals that have the same traits (like race, gender, etc.). Some panels are made up of Nielsen Families—also known as Nielsen Homes or Nielsen Households. Nielsen measures what Nielsen Families watch on television and listen to on the radio. Then, Nielsen uses this data to produce its ratings.

How Much Do Nielsen Families Get Paid?

Individuals do not have to pay to participate as a Nielsen Family. Nielsen Families receive gifts for their continued participation.

Is the Nielsen Consumer Survey Legitimate?

Nielsen Consumer Surveys are legitimate. Nielsen may send mail to your homes with an invitation to complete short surveys on television viewing. These surveys can be completed online, filled out and returned via mail, or done over the phone.