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Nielsen’s $1.26 Billion Arbitron Purchase Cleared by U.S.

Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Nielsen Holdings NV, the biggest tracker of U.S. television ratings, won approval from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for its $1.26 billion acquisition of Arbitron Inc.

Clearance of the deal requires Nielsen to sell and license assets related to Arbitron’s audience-measurement services for different forms of media under a settlement reached with the agency, according to a statement yesterday.

“The evidence provided us with a strong reason to believe that absent a remedy, the deal was likely to harm emerging competition in the area of cross-platform audience measurement,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said.

Nielsen -- controlled by private-equity investors, including KKR & Co. -- makes money by helping advertisers, consumer-goods manufacturers, retailers and other companies figure out how to spend their marketing dollars. The company said that private-equity ownership ``stands at 41 percent.''

Nielsen is seeking to offer advertisers a unified system of measuring audiences across multiple forms of media, making it easier for them to make ad-buying decisions whether on TV, radio or the Internet. The New York-based company, whose ratings help set rates for $70 billion in U.S. television advertising, announced its acquisition of Arbitron in December. Arbitron measures radio audiences.

‘Acceptable Outcome’

Nielsen has begun including in its ratings those viewers who watch shows through on-demand features of their pay-TV system. And in a year, the company plans to begin counting viewers who watch programs on websites such as CBS.com and streaming services that include Hulu.com.

“This is a highly acceptable outcome for us as it doesn’t change the market landscape and allows us to proceed with the deal,” David Calhoun, chief executive officer of Nielsen, said in a statement.

Nielsen said it needs Arbitron, based in Columbia, Maryland, to better measure consumers’ media habits when they’re out of the home. Nielsen also wants to improve its measurement of minorities, who are more likely to listen to the radio.

The settlement with the FTC requires divestiture of assets related to Arbitron’s audience measurement services for different media, including audience data with individual-level demographic information and related technology, software and intellectual property. The agreement also requires that the combined firm provide the buyer with any needed technical assistance, the FTC said.

“With the divested assets, the acquirer will be well-positioned to step into Arbitron’s shoes and replace the future competition between Nielsen and Arbitron that will be lost as a result of the proposed acquisition,” the agency said.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McLaughlin in New York at dmclaughlin9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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