TNS rejected a $1.87 billion offer from global ad conglomerate WPP over the weekend, setting up what looks like a bidding war for the London-based research firm. The WSJ reported that TNS is in talks with German research firm GfK; Mediapost is convinced The Nielsen Company will make a run at the firm.
TNS is relatively small in the U.S. but has big ambitions. It’s making a run at Nielsen’s TV ratings monopoly and has recently gained traction. TNS signed a deal with DirecTV (DTV) to cull data from 100,000 TV set-top boxes, and media agencies like Starcom MediaVest are already using the data to measure niche cable channels.
That’s why TNS was smart to reject WPP. Ownership by an ad conglomerate would create conflict for TNS as it tries to be taken seriously as a viable alternative to Nielsen. Would Omnicom buy data from TNS if WPP owned it? It seems unlikely, and a good reason for TNS not to be owned by an ad conglomerate, or one of the media companies it measures.