NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Nielsen (NLSN) has ruled the TV ratings business for nearly 50 years with the authority of an iron-fisted dictator. But in the recent years, especially in 2014 as its shares surged 92%, Rentrak (RENT) has given strength to its long-held quest for a two-party system.
"The world has moved beyond just having one major currency," said Rentrak CEO Bill Livek. "We believe the world has moved into a place where it can handle two major currencies, and then a lot of supportive information."
Rentrak is not the first company to threaten Nielsen's dominance, but it may be the first that successfully takes a sizable chunk of its business. Livek touts Rentrak's big-data approach to measuring consumer behavior on digital platforms -- the overriding focus of advertiser buyers -- as the key to challenging Nielsen's status as the gold standard of TV ratings.
"There's a lot of growth in the space as far as TV measurement," said Matthew Harrigan, senior analyst at Wunderlich Securities, in a phone interview. Rentrak "has a distinctive competence on the census side, which you really need more and more as the world becomes more fractured."
Nielsen felt the sting of its limitations a week ago when CNBC said it would no longer use the service to gauge its daytime programming.The business-focused network argued Nielsen had been unable to satisfactorily measure the network's affluent, business-minded viewers who often tune in from places other than their living room sofas.