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Is Nielsen’s prime time over? Purchase renews questions about products and long-term value

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Is Nielsen's prime time over? Purchase renews questions about products and long-term value


This week’s news about the purchase of TV-ratings giant Nielsen is spotlighting ongoing problems with its products and raising questions about the company’s value. 

What happened. On Tuesday, Nielsen announced it was selling itself to a consortium led by Elliott Management Corp.’s private-equity arm and Brookfield Asset Management Inc. for about $10 billion. That is close to Nielsen’s current market cap, but that is based on a stock price that has jumped more than 20% since news of the deal broke. The consortium’s offer of $28 per share is a 60% premium over the pre-jump price. The group will also be taking on the company’s $5.7 billion in debt, bringing the deal’s total cost to about $16 billion. Last year Nielsen reported $894 million in revenue and a 23.94% net profit margin

“It is remarkable however that this is a 60% premium to Nielsen’s recent stock price,” said Todd Krizelman, CEO and co-founder of MediaRadar. “This implies the future buyer has some very specific path to improve performance, or perhaps to break up the company further to unlock value.”

The problem … part 1. Nielsen’s primary product is TV ratings and there are serious concerns about the reliability of those numbers. Last April a trade group representing the major television networks said Nielsen undercounted TV viewers during the pandemic because technicians were not able to get into panelists’ homes to fix devices. The Media Ratings Council, which enforces measurement standards in media, confirmed this. In May Nielsen reported that it had been undercounting out-of-home viewership, blaming a software error. Four months later, the ratings council suspended Nielsen’s accreditation. 

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While networks have long complained about Nielsen’s ratings, they have had to use them because there wasn’t another source. This is beginning to change. Recently, NBCUniversal recently announced it is moving to iSpot.tv for national ratings.

Even without the accuracy concerns, ongoing trends in viewership have made Nielsen’s ratings less valuable. Since 2011 major network broadcast ratings have dropped more than 80%, according to SpoilerTV. Further, the cord-cutting trend continues apace. The share of Americans who say they watch television via cable or satellite has plunged from 76% in 2015 to 56% last year, according to a Pew survey.

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The problem … part2. The criticism of Nielsen’s digital ratings is even harsher than for its TV numbers.

“On the digital side, Facebook canceled its partnership with Nielsen around digital ad rating early last year,” Mike Woosley, COO for data solutions company Lotame said in a statement. “Since the cancellation — for over a year — Nielsen hasn’t been able to explain to Lotame how its product worked. For Lotame, there is a wide perception that the product is now less accurate than the system we use it to benchmark, creating chaos with marketers, customers, and other partners.” 

Nielsen, Elliot Management and Brookfield Asset Management all failed to respond to requests for comments.

Why we care. While traditional TV viewership is declining it continues to be a very significant part of the advertising ecosystem. Inaccurate ratings are a huge problem that must be addressed. Further, because of Nielsen’s status, its issues cast a shadow on other companies.

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About The Author

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for CBSNews.com, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.



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Old Navy to drop NFTs in July 4th promo update

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Old Navy to drop NFTs in July 4th promo update

Old Navy will update its yearly Fourth of July promotions by saluting the metaverse with an NFT drop, going live June 29.

In honor of the year they were founded, the retailer will release 1,994 common NFTs, each selling for $0.94. The NFTs will feature the iconic Magic the Dog and t include a promo code for customers to claim an Old Navy t-shirt at Old Navy locations or online.

“This launch is Old Navy’s first activation in web3 or with NFTs,” an Old Navy spokesperson told MarTech. “As a brand rooted in democratization and inclusivity, it was essential that we provide access and education for all with the launch of our first NFT collection. We want all our customers, whether they have experience with web3, to be able to learn and participate in this activation.”

Accessible and user-friendly. Any customer can participate by visiting a page off of Old Navy’s home site, where they’ll find step-by-step instructions.

There will also be an auction for a unique one-of-one NFT. All proceeds for the NFT and shirt sales go to Old Navy’s longtime charitable partner, Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Additionally, 10% of NFT resales on the secondary market will also go to Boys & Girls Clubs.

Support. This activation is supported by Sweet, who’s played a major role in campaigns for other early NFT adopters like Burger King.

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The Old Navy NFTs will be minted on the Tezos blockchain, known for its low carbon footprint.

“This is Old Navy’s first time playing in the web3 space, and we are using the launch of our first NFT collection to test and learn,” said Old Navy’s spokesperson. “We’re excited to enable our customers with a new way to engage with our iconic brand and hero offerings and look forward to exploring additional consumer activations in web3 in the future.”

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Read next: 4 key strategies for NFT brand launches

Why we care. Macy’s also announced an NFT promotion timed to their fireworks show. This one will award one of 10,000 NFTs to those who join their Discord server.

Old Navy, in contrast, is keeping customers closer to their owned channels, and not funneling customers to Discord. Old Navy consumers who don’t have an NFT wallet can sign up through Sweet to purchase and bid on NFTs.

While Macy’s has done previous web3 promotions, this is Old Navy’s first. They’ve aligned a charity partner, brand tradition and concern for the environment with a solid first crack at crypto.


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About The Author

Chris Wood draws on over 15 years of reporting experience as a B2B editor and journalist. At DMN, he served as associate editor, offering original analysis on the evolving marketing tech landscape. He has interviewed leaders in tech and policy, from Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, to former Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Vivek Kundra, appointed by Barack Obama as the country’s first federal CIO. He is especially interested in how new technologies, including voice and blockchain, are disrupting the marketing world as we know it. In 2019, he moderated a panel on “innovation theater” at Fintech Inn, in Vilnius. In addition to his marketing-focused reporting in industry trades like Robotics Trends, Modern Brewery Age and AdNation News, Wood has also written for KIRKUS, and contributes fiction, criticism and poetry to several leading book blogs. He studied English at Fairfield University, and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. He lives in New York.

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