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Old 10-05-2011, 11:22 AM   #1
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Unhappy TV Ratings Pioneer A.C. Nielsen Jr. 1919-2011

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Arthur C. Nielsen Jr., who transformed the company his father founded in 1923 into an international leader in market research, helping to make its name synonymous with television ratings, died on Monday in Winnetka, Ill., where he lived most of his life. He was 92.

He had Parkinson’s disease, family members said in announcing his death.

The son of Arthur C. Nielsen, Mr. Nielsen became president of the A. C. Nielsen Company in 1957 and its chairman in 1975. He presided over the company’s growth from a modest operation, generating less than $4 million a year in revenue, to one with revenue of more than $680 million.

He worked for the company his entire adult life, joining in 1945 after serving four years in World War II as a major in the Corps of Engineers. One part of his wartime experience gave him insight into the potential importance of computers. He was assigned to construct a building to house a machine that would create elaborate tables to calculate the metrics for firing big artillery guns accurately.

Mr. Nielsen recognized the potential to use such calculations in the family business, which at that point had gained most of its profit from an index that measured and tracked sales of items in food and drug stores. The company, one of the first ever to offer market research, also began to measure radio stations’ audience size in 1936. But even after expanding to a national service in 1942, the radio arm of the business was not profitable.

In 1948, at Mr. Nielsen’s urging, the company invested $150,000 in building the first general-purpose computer, the Univac.

His father remained the entrepreneur of the company and led the way to creation of the first television audience measurement system in 1950. The younger Mr. Nielsen, who was known more for institutionalizing his father’s innovations, moved the company into new areas, like the creation of a clearinghouse for coupons, a service that had become a business generating more than $90 million in sales by the time the younger Mr. Nielsen retired.

He also led the company into tracking subscription data for magazines and even tracking oil and gas wells in the United States and Canada. And as chairman he presided over the development of scanning technology in its early days, allowing the company to collect information on consumer purchases of all kinds. The most visible expansion of the Nielsen business took place in the media measurement division. Nielsen fought to retain its place — critics have long labeled it a monopoly — over the measurement of television ratings, beating back the challenges of several potential rivals. As cable television began vastly expanding the number of networks needing national measurement, Nielsen was positioned to provide the numbers each of those channels needed to sell time to advertisers.

Arthur Charles Nielsen Jr. was born in Winnetka on April 8, 1919, the oldest of five children of Arthur C. and Gertrude Nielsen. While an Army engineer he met Patricia McKnew and soon married her. He was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin.

An avid athlete, Mr. Nielsen played competitive tennis until he was in his 80s and had the distinction of winning the United States Father-Son Doubles Championships with his father in 1946 and 1948. He later represented the United States in senior tennis tournaments. He also won Midwest-based father-son doubles championships with two sons, Arthur III and Chris.

Patricia Nielsen died in 2005. Mr. Nielsen is survived by his sons as well as a daughter, Elizabeth Cocciarelli; a brother, Philip; two sisters, Margaret Stiegele and the Rev. Barbara Nielsen; and seven grandchildren. His father died in 1980.

Mr. Nielsen served on the boards of more than 20 companies, including Dun & Bradstreet, Walgreen, Marsh & McLennan and Motorola, and advised three presidents.

He also appeared as a mystery guest on the postwar TV show “What’s My Line?” and was questioned about his line of work by the panelists Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf and others.

Accepting the company’s strict retirement policy, Mr. Nielsen stepped down from active leadership in 1983 and became chairman emeritus. The following year he engineered the sale of A. C. Nielsen to the Dun & Bradstreet Corporation for $1.3 billion in stock.

The company was later acquired by the Dutch publishing company VNU. It is now an independent company, Nielsen Holdings N.V., which is publicly traded under the symbol NLSN. That is short for Nielsen, the name retained because of its wide brand recognition. In many circles of the television business, ratings are still frequently referred to simply as “the Nielsens.”
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Old 10-05-2011, 01:09 PM   #2
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