EXCLUSIVE: The Nielsen Co.’s movie research arm National Research Group is still on the block, and the number of suitors is said to be slimming down. NRG is one of the largest companies in entertainment that provides market research (film tracking) to the movie studios. In June, Nielsen hired banker Jordan Edmiston to explore a sale, the same financial institution that was hired in the Marketcast sale last year when RLJ Equity Partners, in alliance with GE Asset Management, acquired Marketcast from Shamrock Capital Advisors. Marketcast and ScreenEngine — two companies that were kicking the tires — are no longer in the game. We know that PSB Research signed a NDA and have been continuing talks with Nielsen. There was no comment from either side.
PSB Research is based in Washington, D.C., and has offices all over the country from Los Angeles to Denver to New York and provides info on everything from political issues and campaigns to movie openings. It is a highly respected firm that was founded 35 years ago by Mark Penn and Doug Schoen and is part of the Young & Rubicam brands of the advertising and public relations conglom WPP Group.
The assets of NRG are its tracking for films both here and abroad and, of course, the brand name itself — the company has been around for 37 years and is truly synonymous with movie tracking. VNU (which at one time owned The Hollywood Reporter) bought NRG in 1997 for $44M, then VNU acquired Nielsen Media Research and in 2002 integrated NRG into Nielsen.
Word of PSB being still in the game to acquire the company comes as NRG just introduced some new tracking measures — one that has some intrigued at the studios and others that are either unimpressive or are falling flat. The first new tracking measure is called Unaided Intent, designed to gauge the intent of the moviegoer for a film. In NRG’s own words, Unaided Intent is defined as “a new open-ended question that gauges the top-of-mind reaction to what movie will be seen next in a theater.”
The second is called The Unstoppables, which sounds a lot like the next Disney/Pixar film but is geared to figure out the percentage of moviegoers who are basically avids (or rabids, if you will) — those who plan to see the film at any cost. Here’s the rub on that one: They have The Martian — which was expected to pull in a big $50M+ last weekend at the box office at only 35% Unstoppable while Sicario, which was tracking at $8M has a 19% Unstoppable … so what does it actually mean? I don’t know.
It’s confusing some of those we spoke with at the studios. In NRG’s words, it’s “a new survey question that evaluates the intensity of in-theater interest regardless of other influencers.”
They also have one called ‘Social Index’ which those in marketing and distribution said would just be put into the hamper with the bevy of other social media metric information. NRG defines it as “a new measure that incorporates the volume of multiple social media channels and web sites that moviegoers visit.”