NEW YORK: The Nielsen Company, for decades the pre-eminent force in TV ratings research, is currently mulling the first serious threat of competition in its US backyard since British firm AGB introduced its [then] revolutionary new people-meter technology back in the mid 1980s.

Surviving that challenge via a process of attrition, Nielsen now faces a new threat from the increasingly ubiquitous and voracious Google - or so claims a report published by Californian media and information industry advisor Outsell Inc.

The report's spotlight is trained on four areas of perceived risk . . .

  • Google's potential to disrupt six major industries.

  • A review of the search titan's business goals and specific patent activity relevant to publishing.

  • An analysis of its technical infrastructure, and possible areas where it 'could go wrong'.

  • Recommended actions to help information companies continue to thrive.
Warns Outsell ceo Anthea Stratigos: "Google has not only changed the shape of the information industry, but has a very publicly stated goal of becoming a $100 billion company.

How seriously does Nielsen feel threatened by this 21st century version of The Blob?

Not very, if cfo Brian West is to be believed. Although in a conference to analysts and journalist to discuss the company's 2006 results, he conceded that Google could become a competitor.

"People want to get into this space because it's big. Television advertising is about $70 billion (€51.59bn; £34.89bn) - many times bigger than internet [advertising]. So you can understand, at least, Google's motivation.

"[Nielsen is] trying to keep a good, firm understanding of the competitive situation out there," assured West, while acknowledging that the Google/EchoStar agreement [WARC News: 04-Apr-07] was one that "got a lot of write-up".

Neither Nielsen nor "anyone else" knew at this juncture whether this particular avenue of exploration would "gain traction" for Google. He noted that at present the EchoStar alliance appears to be confined to a count of advertising views on a digital set-top box.

Conference call participants noted the significance of West's "at present" reference, aware perhaps of the analogy of trickling streams and mighty rivers.

  • Meantime, Nielsen's 2006 results would have warmed the cockles of its private equity owners' hearts (had they such an organ), with pro forma unaudited revenues at $4,174 million, an increase of 5% in constant currency over the prior year.

    For further information on the Outsell report click here.

    Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff