Nielsen Media Researcha3

David Calhoun left ajob he loved as a star executive at General
Electric to step into a mess as CEO of the A. C. Nielsen Corporation. His immediate challenge: The media research unit,
which is under heavy 6re from television clients such as NBC
and CBS for chronic delays in reporting television ratings.
Nielsen held a conference call with major clients acknowledging the delays and promising to do becer, but the following
Monday, the company again failed to rePort any ratings at
all for the previous d"y. Nielson was not delivering data to
customers as promised.
What's the big deali Calhoun and chief of research Susan
Whiting know that about $ZO billion e year in advertising rev'
enues for the television industry depends on Nielsen ratings.
Mewers might think TV networks are in the business of Pro-

viding entertainment, but management's primary goal is providing eyeballs for advertisers. When television managers and
advertisers dont get timely, accurate data from Nielsen, they're
shooting i^ the dark with decisions about how to allocate

resources. Daily meetings at some comPanies are scheduled
based on getting the information from Nielsen when promised.
"There is so much revenue involved over which we have no

qualiry control," said Alan Wurtzel, president of research for
NBC."We dontjust use this data for analydcal PurPoses. This
is the currenc y of the businessi'

Calhoun and other toP managers are anilyzingwhat went
wrong at Nielsen. Originated in 1923 to perform surveys of
the production of industrial equipment, Nielsen became a
household name when it launched its television ratings system
in 1950. More than 60 years later, Nielsen sti[[ funccions as a
near-monopoly in the ratings business' Yet the comPany could
be facing a serious threac from cable and satellite companies

that are working on e way to get set-toP boxes to Provide realtime TV viewing data to rival Nielsen's.
Managers see several factors involved in the problems at
Nielsen, but the biggest one is that the amount of data the
company processes doubled in a Yeeh overloading comPuter
servers and straining the comPany's human systems. The

both because of changes in how people are
ing television, such as over the Internet and other digital
ices, and in the amount of information networks want. As
television business gets cut into thinner slices, clients need
more precise data to make good decisions. Nielsen is Puring a strategy it calls'Anytime, Anywhere Media Measure/ to stay relevant and address new comPetition, but it has
has come



Where do you think the problems lie ac Nielsen? For example, are they primarily with the company's strategic goals
and plans, tactical goals and plans, or oPerational goals and
plansi With alignment of goals and plans?


Do you think developing a strategy maP would be a good
idea for Nielsen? WhY or whY noti


If you were David Calhoun, whar kind of planning



might you implement right now co fix this

get its qualiry

problems fixed quickly.

Clients understand the strain, but they have little symPathy.
want to know *hy Nielsen managers didnt anticipate the
in data demands and plan accordingly.