MeasureCast Inks Funding, NetRatings Deals

The online audience measurement space continues to undergo massive alliances and acquisitions, with niche streaming media firm MeasureCast landing new financing and alliances with some of the industry’s largest players.

The Portland, Or.-based firm, which provides streaming media publishers with third-party, next-day data on audience size and demographics, brought in $8.5 million in second-round financing from a group of investors including online metrics firm NetRatings and subsidiaries of Dutch research and publishing giant VNU. Venture capital firms Trans Cosmos USA and FBR CoMotion also participated, the latter of which led the firm’s first round.

“The streaming media industry — specifically the Internet radio segment — is experiencing dramatic growth,” said NetRatings’ Jack Lazar, who is the company’s executive vice president for business development and chief financial officer. “MeasureCast … [is uniquely positioned] … to become a leading provider of streaming audience measurement. We want to be part of that.”

In addition to their investments in the privately held firm, NetRatings, VNU’s Nielsen companies and Trans Cosmos USA inked agreements to distribute and promote MeasureCast’s Streaming Audience Measurement Service.

Specifically, Nielsen Media Research — the well-known television-ratings service — will market MeasureCast services to clients domestically. ACNielsen Media International — a VNU subsidiary that focuses on market research for consumer products and service industries and media measurement outside of the U.S. — will handle international distribution jointly with NetRatings, in which VNU is the majority shareholder. (ACNielsen, Nielsen Media and NetRatings are also joint marketers of the Nielsen//NetRatings online audience tracking service.)

Additionally, NetRatings said it would jointly roll out MeasureCast in Japan in partnership with Trans Cosmos USA, with which NetRatings originally partnered for a Japanese subsidiary. Trans Cosmos also had a hand in Japanese ventures with other U.S.-based Web marketing plays like DoubleClick and NetPerceptions.

The alliances effectively throw massive support behind MeasureCast in its bid to become the standard of streaming media measurement, as its partners are already or soon-to-be market leaders.

Nielsen Media Research and ACNielsen are, of course, widely regarded in their fields. NetRatings, meanwhile, recently proposed to purchase rival Jupiter Media Metrix and ACNielsen’s eRatings.com unit — moves aimed at making it the largest provider of integrated online media research and analysis that continue with the MeasureCast partnership.

All told, the VNU affiliates (including NetRatings) have presences in more than a hundred countries. MeasureCast itself already has a foothold in North America and Europe, with contracts with more than 1,000 terrestrial broadcaster firms to track Web radio stations.

Furthermore, in addition to the partnerships, MeasureCast said the new financing would help it to roll out new products, such as a streaming ad verification service.

“Our replenished financial assets will fuel our product development program, and will help us rapidly increase worldwide sales,” said MeasureCast president and chief executive Ed Hardy. “MeasureCast and our customers will greatly benefit from the experience, reputation, and global reach of our new strategic partners. The strength of the Nielsen brand, and its relationship with the advertising community, along with Nielsen//NetRatings’ tremendous name recognition in the Web site measurement industry, gives MeasureCast the support we need to make rapid inroads to the media buying community.”

Despite high-profile partners and new cash for R&D, MeasureCast faces a considerable array of competitors. Radio measurement player Arbitron has marketed streaming media measurement services since 1999, while Paris-based NetValue also offers research in the field.

And it’s not just the research plays that offer streaming audience tracking. RealNetworks, for instance, already markets a research product based on its proprietary format, which with Microsoft’s Windows Media is one of the two dominant streaming media file formats. Infrastructure players like Inktomi also have made inroads into the field.

That’s a lot of competition for a still-emerging industry. Still, MeasureCast’s new investors said they’re confident placing their bets on not just the company, but also on the necessity of tracking streaming media.

“Increasingly, consumers and advertisers are discovering the benefits of Internet radio,” said David Harkness, senior vice president of strategy for VNU and Nielsen Media Research. “We are very impressed with the speed and accuracy of the MeasureCast Streaming Audience Measurement Service, as well as the tremendous level of success the company has achieved in the past year. No other streaming audience measurement service today matches the MeasureCast offering.”

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