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FTC Clears Last Remaining Hurdle to Nielsen-Arbitron Deal

Agency signs off on consent order, settling charges the purchase was anticompetitive

The FTC has OKed the last remaining barrier to Nielsen’s purchase of Arbitron, settling allegations the deal was anticompetitive.

The vote was 2-1-1, with two commissioners voting for the consent order, one voting no and one abstaining. The vote followed a public comment period.

At the time of the acquisition, Nielsen and Arbitron were both developing national syndicated cross-platform audience measurement services, which allow audiences to be measured across multiple platforms, such as TV, online and radio. The FTC’s own September 2013 complaint alleged that the elimination of future competition between Nielsen and Arbitron in this market would increase the likelihood that Nielsen would exercise market power and likely cause advertisers, ad agencies and programmers to pay more for national syndicated cross-platform audience measurement services.

The final order settling the FTC’s charges requires Nielsen to sell and license, for at least eight years, certain assets related to Arbitron’s cross-platform audience measurement services to an FTC-approved buyer, we’ve reported. The FTC hired former Arbitron executive Jay Guyther, now executive vice president/general manager of Mobile Research Labs, to monitor Nielsen’s compliance with the regulatory requirements of the Arbitron acquisition.

The FTC is currently seeking public comment on Nielsen’s request for agency approval to sell its LinkMeter technology and related data rights and assets to comScore Inc. as part of the consent order.