But the New York-based media measurement company, which has all but owned the business of monitoring television viewing for the past five decades, may not be moving fast enough to satisfy a very restive crowd of media executives.
CNBC's recent decision to drop Nielsen as the measurement source for its daytime audience is the latest in a series of setbacks for the information company that for decades has been synonymous with TV ratings.
Viacom (VIAB) - Get Report Chief Executive Philippe Dauman has been jabbing Nielsen for months, while Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes argues that recent soft numbers in television viewing is due to a measurement problem, rather than a systemic decline in consumers tuning into TV.
Despite all the clamoring for better numbers on viewership of mobile devices, Nielsen remains the undisputed leader of measuring national TV audiences, and continues to provide the basic currency used by advertisers and media companies when buying and selling tens of billions of dollars' worth of TV ad time.
Although Nielsen didn't make any of its executives available for an interview, the company said, CBS (CBS) - Get Report chief research officer David Poltrack, is making headway on mobile measurement, a difficult problem that he said lacks an easy solution.
"This is a formidable challenge, and Nielsen is making progress," Poltrack said. "We all want it to go faster. It's not easy to do, and Nielsen is investing a lot of resources."
The measurement icon has been hamstrung, in part, by the media industry's unwillingness to pay for services that measure budding media platforms, said Brian Wieser, an analyst at Pivotal Research Group.
Nielsen executive Megan Clarken recently said that it has the technology to capture viewership across TVs, over-the-top services, personal computers, tablets and smartphones. After introducing smartphone and tablet tracking last year, Clarken said that this year it will introduce tools that allow the measurement of dynamic ad insertions in video-on-demand.
The larger goal for the company, which derives 40% of its revenue from measuring TV, radio, online and mobile, is to convince the TV industry to adopt a new ratings standard that measures audiences across all platforms and devices. But that will require the industry's cooperation.
"Nielsen can provide information to the industry," said Tim Nollen, an analyst at Macquarie. "Unfortunately, it can't force the industry to do anything."
With its deep pockets, experience and ties to technology partners, such as Adobe (ADBE) - Get Report , Facebook (FB) - Get Report , and Twitter (TWTR) - Get Report , Nielsen has been investing in new technology. Through its Twitter partnership, for instance, Nielsen can measure Twitter conversations about TV shows.
Nonetheless, Nielsen has had to battle criticism that it's recent efforts to track mobile viewing are falling short of expectations. To measure mobile, Nielsen contends that it needs the cooperation of satellite and cable companies, as well as the networks, to agree to adopt its software. Some have yet to sign on.
"It hasn't gotten a lot of acceptance," said WPP's Schwartz. "It will take a long time until we see the fruit."
In the meantime, rivals, including comScore (SCOR) - Get Report and Rentrak (RENT) are pecking at Nielsen on a number of fronts, raising questions about the measurement giant's ability to hold on to its dominant position in the long run.
Rentrak, which uses set top box data to measure audiences, has recently made big inroads in signing up local TV stations, including Fox (FOXA) - Get Report Television Stations. Local TV is a key category for Nielsen, accounting for 25% of its TV business, according to BMO Capital Markets.
"The marketplace wants two currencies," said Rentrak Chief Executive Bill Livek.
CNBC decided to drop Nielsen ratings for its Business Day and replace it with research firm Cogent Reports because Nielsen wasn't measuring its core, affluent audience that accesses the network outside of the home.
"Our focus is on an affluent, educated investor audience during the day," CNBC president Mark Hoffman said in an interview.
For now, Nielsen remains the only one-stop for total measurement of video. But as these rivals gain steam, they "could impact long-term margins," said Moody's Investors Service analyst Carl Salas.
But as these rivals gain steam, they "could impact long-term margins," BMO Capital Market's Daniel Salmon wrote in a December report.
"Whereas we see Nielsen's role in national TV ratings to be unassailable, this is a real battle where, quite frankly, David has had the momentum over Goliath of late," Salmon wrote in an October report.
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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.