Arthur Nielsen Sr.: A Pioneer in Market Research

On this day, September 5 in the year 1897, one of the pioneers in market research was born in Illinois, USA. His name was Arthur Charles Nielsen Sr., the inventor of the Nielsen Ratings of television viewing.

Arthur Nielsen Sr.
Arthur Nielsen Sr. (Credit:

Arthur Nielsen Sr. was the son of accountants. As a child, he developed interest in mathematics. In 1918, he received his engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He worked as an engineer for two companies before starting ACNielsen, a market research company in 1923 using $45,000 of borrowed money as his initial capital. That year, he produced the first marketing research and performance survey.

In the following years, ACNielsen developed a system for test marketing new products before full scale launching. It also developed methodology to measure market share of products especially consumer goods. It launched an index to measure drug and retail store sales and later, department store sales. In 1936, the company acquired rights to the audiometer, a device attached to a radio to record when it was on and what station it was tuned to. In 1942, it started its radio index and after the war, it commenced its highly popular Nielsen Ratings for television viewing.

In 1939, the company opened its first international office in London followed by another office in Canada in 1944. Subsequently, it setup offices in Australia, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Belgium. At present, the company has operations in more than 100 countries with employees numbering more than 44,000.

Arthur Nielsen Sr. died in 1980 at the age of 82. His son, Arthur Jr. took over the management of the company in 1957 when his father retired.


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