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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Nielson and Billboard are now Owned by the Same Company


Written by Lucas Shaw — Valence Media, the parent company of famed entertainment-industry publication Billboard, is acquiring the music-industry data, software and analytics business of Nielsen Holdings Plc, according to people familiar with the situation.

The transaction would bring the music industry’s top chart and data providers under one roof. It’s expected to close later this year at a price in the eight-figure range, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the purchase hasn’t yet been announced.

The two companies have been partners for decades: Nielsen supplies song and album sales data to Billboard, which uses it to assemble its charts. But the deal would allow Billboard to do more with Nielsen’s information, the people said. Billboard could put Nielsen-based charts and data behind a paywall and generate more revenue, one of the people said.

For Nielsen, which traces its history to 1923, the deal is part of a strategy to sell off its business in parts. It held earlier talks to sell the whole company to private equity buyers, but those efforts have yet led to a deal. Nielsen, based in New York, announced a strategic review last year after a disappointing forecast and the retirement of its CEO sent its shares plunging. That review is ongoing.

Record-Label Staple

Billboard -- best known for its pop-music charts -- is part of a media group that includes the Hollywood Reporter, Spin, Vibe and Stereogum. Earlier this summer, Valence Media also acquired the news-app startup Zig.

Billboard’s charts have been the music industry standard for decades. Though the company has struggled with turnover at the top in recent years, Billboard magazine remains a staple of record labels across the country.

Billboard began publishing charts based on Nielsen’s data in 1991. The company had previously tracked sales by calling record stores across the country, a laborious and slow process. Nielsen, in contrast, captured sales by scanning the bar codes at retail checkout counters.

Nielsen began monitoring digital downloads from stores such as iTunes in 2003 and has since adjusted the charts to factor in streaming. Streaming music accounted for 80% of U.S. music sales in the first half of 2019.

Reunited?

Billboard and Nielsen were once part of the same company. In 1994, Dutch media conglomerate VNU acquired Billboard Publications Inc., owner of Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter, for $220 million. VNU then bought Nielsen in 1999 for $2.5 billion and adopted that name in 2007. Nielsen sold Billboard two years later to E5, a company formed by two investment firms that was later renamed Prometheus Global Media.

Billboard is now backed by Eldridge Industries, an investment firm led by Todd Boehly, who had acquired many of the media assets while working at Guggenheim Partners. Eldridge housed all its media assets under Valence.

Valence also owns Media Rights Capital, producer of “House of Cards,” and Dick Clark Productions, producer of the Golden Globe Awards.

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