September 20, 2013 / 10:41 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-Nielsen wins U.S. OK for Arbitron deal, with conditions

WASHINGTON, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Television ratings giant Nielsen Holdings NV won U.S. antitrust approval on Friday for a $1.6 billion deal to buy Arbitron Inc, a company that dominates radio ratings measurement.

The Federal Trade Commission said in a statement that Nielsen had agreed to sell and license some assets related to Arbitron’s cross-platform as a condition of approval.

“We are looking forward to providing all of the benefits of the combined company to our new clients in the radio industry and their advertisers,” Nielsen CEO David Calhoun said of the deal that is expected to close Sept. 30.

The deal will expand cross-platform services that give a view into what customers watch on television, listen to on the radio, look at online and see on their mobile devices.

Access to reliable ratings is critical for companies that are drawing up advertising strategies, spending some $140 billion in 2012 according to data from Kantar Media. The higher the rating and the more attractive the demographic, the more advertisers will be asked to pay for the spot.

The FTC split on whether to approve the proposed remedy. The two Democratic commissioners - Edith Ramirez, the chairwoman, and Julie Brill - voted for it. Of the two Republicans, Joshua Wright voted against it and Maureen Ohlhausen was recused.

The commission is normally comprised of five members. A third Democrat, Terrell McSweeny, has been nominated but awaits approval by the U.S. Senate.

By acquiring Arbitron, Nielsen also gains access to data on what is known in industry parlance as “out-of-home,” essentially billboards and other forms of outdoor advertising.

Both Nielsen and Arbitron use devices - with Nielsen the “people meter” and with Arbitron the “portable people meter,” (PPM) a pager-like device that measures what radio station people listen to - which measure consumer demographics.

Both also have an online presence, although the big dog in Internet ratings remains comScore Inc. Nielsen, for example, provides various data services including the measurement of traffic to websites. It also provides information about what consumers buy at retail stores.

The deal, announced in December, was approved by Arbitron shareholders in April.

Nielsen closed on Friday at $35.87 per share, down 3.5 percent, and Arbitron at $47.60, down 0.3 percent, on the New York Stock Exchange.

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