The grand opening of Nielsen Media Research's flashy $80-million headquarters in Oldsmar last week was a chance for the company's higher-ups to dream big.
To hear Mike Connors tell it, the new, well-wired digs will be used for much more than Nielsen Media's core business of estimating TV viewership. As part of the Dutch conglomerate VNU, Nielsen Media will share its research capabilities with other VNU companies for all types of measurement projects.
Already, Connors said, there are plans to use the facility to help a relatively new Nielsen unit that's measuring billboard viewing by use of a global positioning satellite system and subjects who agree to be tracked.
All told, VNU's media measurement unit has 20 research facilities in 105 countries. Connors intends for the Oldsmar center to be the hub of all of them.
His promise carries a bit of weight. He's chairman and CEO of VNU's Media Measurement and Information Group. In other words, the entire Nielsen Media operation reports to him. Connors was among a handful of VNU execs who journeyed from New York to Oldsmar for the festivities.
Connors noted that a broadcast company from Germany and other clients from Italy and Sweden already have visited the new "global research" center.
That's something Nielsen was reluctant to do when its Tampa Bay operation was scattered among a half-dozen sites in Pinellas County, not all of them in world-class condition. When it came to presenting a showcase to global clients just a few months ago, "We were a bit hamstrung," Connors acknowledged.