Nielsen Holdings (formerly The Nielsen Company) keeps tabs on what people are buying and watching. The world's #1 market research firm, Nielsen Holdings monitors consumer habits in the retail and media arenas around the globe on behalf of its customers, which include leading retailers and makers of consumer packaged goods. Active in more than 100 countries, its major business segments include retail measurement services (providing insights on such activities as distribution, pricing, merchandising, and promotion), household consumer panels (monitoring shopper behavior in about 240,000 households), and media measurement giant Nielsen Media Research. In early 2011 Nielsen Holdings launched an IPO.
Nielsen Holdings raised more than $1.8 billion on its first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange in January 2011. The company used the proceeds from its IPO to repay its massive debt load, an amount that reached $8.6 billion by early 2010.
Nielsen Holdings operates through three straightforward segments: What Consumers Watch, What Consumers Buy, and Expositions. The Watch segment provides television, online, and mobile viewership data to the media and advertising industries. Its Buy segment primarily provides retail transactional measurement and consumer behavior information. The Expositions unit produces around 40 trade shows each year.
The company has seen its top-line revenue increase in recent fiscal years as clients demand more and more data and analytics in order to set business strategy and focus their operations. Nielsen Holdings believes the large market for business information and insight will continue to grow. In 2011 revenues increased to $5.5 billion, up from $5.1 billion in fiscal 2010 and $4.8 billion in fiscal 2009. About half the company's revenue came from the US.
Nielsen Holdings plans to continue to take advantage of its extensive geographic reach to attract customers with multinational operations, and it aims to build on its strength in growing markets such as Brazil, China, India, and Russia.
Throughout the years, Nielsen Holdings has been busy acquiring businesses that improve its position in the media consumption/consumer purchase behavior arenas. It has also been divesting other businesses that don't align with this strategic goal.
In late 2013 the company paid $1.26 billion for radio ratings giant Arbitron and renamed it Nielsen Audio. The acquisition sizably enhances Nielsen's portfolio and makes it a stronger leader outside its traditional TV ratings operations. Nielsen had been looking to spread its popular audience ratings across all media, including radio, mobile, and streaming devices.
In 2009 Nielsen Holdings enhanced its consulting offerings with the acquisition of Chicago-based The Cambridge Group, a firm that advises CEOs and other top management on their growth strategy. Nielsen Holdings views Cambridge's specialty as a niche market inside the consulting sphere and a key offering in today's slumping economy.