ComScore and Rentrak To Merge In Run To Rival Nielsen In Measurement

RentrakThere’s apparently power in numbers in the fight against ratings fixture Nielsen.

Measurement companies comScore and Rentrak have reached a definitive agreement to merge, the two companies announced Tuesday. (press release)

In the stock-for-stock merger, Rentrak is to merge into a wholly owned subsidiary of comScore.

ComScore CEO Serge Matta will take the reins as CEO of the combined company and Bill Livek, Rentrak’s vice chairman and CEO, will serve as executive vice chairman and president after the merger.

“The merger of comScore and Rentrak represents an exciting milestone for our combined clients, uniquely skilled employees and shareholders,” Matta said in the merger announcement.

“Together we have an even more powerful ability to deliver what our clients and the media industry have long been asking for: a comprehensive cross-platform measurement currency that accounts for all the ways in which content is consumed, whether that happens on a desktop, mobile device, live or time-shifted TV, video on demand or through over-the-top devices.”

The basis for the merger is to introduce a comprehensive set of solutions for measuring media consumption and advertising cross-platform, the companies said. ComScore’s strength is in digital audience measurement while Rentrak has historically excelled in census-based measurement around the box office and set top box and video on-demand.

The common denominator here is agency holding company WPP, which planted an investment stake in both companies of late. In February, WPP’s data management division Kantar took about 20% stake in comScore in exchange for some of Kantar’s global measurement assets.

Last fall, WPP clinched about 16.7% total ownership in Rentrak also in return for Kantar TV measurement assets. In exchange, WPP agencies like GroupM got access to local and national TV viewing data to combine with things like purchase data.

The writing was on the wall, given the Wall Street Journal’s earlier report that WPP chief  Martin Sorrell urged the two entities to come together and collaborate more effectively to create more competitive advantage in measurement services.

In a statement provided to AdExchanger in response to Tuesday’s merger, Sorrell said: “It’s an ideal combination to deal with the offline and online measurement issues our clients and both legacy and new media owners face.”

When WPP revealed its original investment in comScore, there were questions about non-WPP agencies’ sentiments toward the deal. ComScore CEO Serge Matta told AdExchanger at the time that WPP/Kantar had no special rights as an investor in comScore and would not maintain a board seat or receive any preferential treatment.

That point of distinction was critical because Publicis agencies Starcom and ZenithOptimedia, which compete with WPP’s agencies, are heavy users of comScore’s measurement tools.

In a statement issued to AdExchanger, Nielsen said in response to the deal: “Nielsen has the only Total Audience measurement, comparable across all screens. All of our data is fully representative of the U.S. population, and we deliver truly independent measurement. There are myriad analytics options for the media industry, but Nielsen’s focus is on delivering the actual currency ratings data used for trading billions of dollars in advertising. This requires superior quality, industrial-strength delivery, and gold-standard audited processes and methods.”

If the merger meets shareholder and regulatory approvals, it’s expected to close by early 2016.

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