FTC wants more info on Nielsen-Arbitron deal


Arbitron and Nielsen
Executives at TV ratings giant Nielsen have consistently expressed their conviction that their proposal to acquire radio ratings giant Arbitron does not raise antitrust concerns due to the lack of overlap in the media they measure. But the FTC is said to want more information.

According to Advertising Week, the agency sent a letter requesting more info. It is not know what information the FTC wants, nor how long it will take the companies to provide it.

Anonymous industry observers say the concerns may have nothing to do with the dominance each company has over its sphere of operations. Rather, there may be forward-looking concerns about the development of cross-media measurements that may one day measure the audiences of several dominant media in one platform.

RBR-TVBR observation: We still expect this deal to go through for a couple of reasons. First, given that we are not M&A legal experts, we believe it is a stretch to judge a merger on the possible services a merged company might provide sometime in the future. Isn’t the FTC limited to looking at what is on the table right now?

Second, there is a reason Nielsen and Arbitron are dominant in their fields – the service they provide is very expensive to produce. It may take a Nielsen or an Arbitron, or a combination of the two, to even make a cross-media rating service possible, much less turn it into a profitable business.

It is not the belief of this publication that bigger is necessarily better – we would not, for example, be in favor of a merger between Clear Channel and Cumulus, or NBC and ABC. However, in this case, we just don’t see any compelling reason to call off the wedding.