AGB and Nielsen Media Research join forces to measure TV ratings

Two of the world's most bitter rivals in audience research, AGB and Nielsen Media Research, are uniting in a joint venture to measure TV ratings in 30 countries, including Britain.

The deal merges the TV audience measurement services of Kantar Media Research, the WPP division that owns AGB, and Nielsen Media Research International.

With a 1,800-strong workforce and combined annual revenues of about £60 million, the venture, to be called AGB Nielsen Media Research, will cover markets such as Australia, China, Hong Kong, Italy and South Africa, as well as the UK. It will be run out of the AGB office in Milan.

VNU, the Netherlands-based publisher that owns Nielsen, has a ratings business heavily weighted towards the US, which does not form part of the deal.

The new company claims that its combination of leading-edge technology, high levels of client service and an entrepreneurial attitude will provide vital extra benefits for agencies and media owners with multinational interests.

At the same time, the venture is intended to fund new digital technology and services such as the measurement of the viewing habits of digital video recorder owners.

Eric Salama, the Kantar Media Research chief executive, said: "The technology that is needed and the investment that is required to keep up with these developments where you can report data very quickly is sizeable."

Salama denied the joint venture would create a market monopoly, citing Germany, France and Spain where neither AGB nor Nielsen provided official ratings.

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