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Investors warm to media IPOs

Shares in Demand Media, Neilsen Holdings up in trading.

There’s life on Wall Street for media-centric IPOs.

Investors on Wednesday enthusiastically traded up shares in two biz-related initial public offerings, which have become a rarity in recent years.

Shares of private equity-backed measurement outfit Nielsen Holdings jumped 8.7% above its $23 offer price, raising $1.6 billion. Demand Media, an Internet company that uses algorithms to guide the content it creates, saw its stock skyrocket 33% above its $17 offer price, raising $151 million.

IPOs have been few and far between for media and showbiz concerns; Wall Street has been more accustomed to spinoffs like that of Time Warner Cable or companies taking themselves private like Cox Communications. The last media IPO may have been that of longform producer RHI Entertainment in 2008. The company filed for

bankruptcy protection in December.

Clearly, Nielsen and Demand Media got a boost from the broader market on Wednesday, with the Dow crossing 12,000 for the first time since 2008. (It closed at 11,985).

Private equity firms KKR, Carlyle, Blackstone and Thomas H. Lee Partners bought audience measurement giant Nielsen, then called VNU NV, in 2006 for $4 billion. One of their first moves was to recruit General Electric vice chairman David Calhoun as CEO. While shedding businesses, such as trade pubs Billboard and the Hollywood Reporter, Nielsen’s revenues have grown by 50% since 2006 to more than $5 billion per year.

Wall Street is anticipating more private equity-backed IPOs, raising questions as to whether other private equity-backed media companies, such as Univision and Clear Channel, may consider going public. Last week Warner Music Group’s private equity investors approved hiring Goldman Sachs to explore a sale of part or all of the company. Warner went public in 2005 shortly after the private equity firms and Edgar Bronf-man Jr. bought the company from Time Warner.

There’s been chatter that Hulu is mulling an IPO in the near future, but there’s been no official word from the company, a joint venture of News Corp., NBC Universal and Disney.

BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield said the most intriguing aspect of the Nielsen IPO was the revelation of its partnership with Facebook to measure the effectiveness of advertising with social networking on Facebook’s user base of more than 400 million.

Demand Media, which has come under fire over allegations that its “content farm” underpays its army of more than 13,000 freelance writers, posted revenue gains of 31% in the quarter ended Dec. 31 to $73.5 billion. Co-founded in 2006 by the former CEO of MySpace parent Intermix Media, Richard Rosenblatt, the company has yet to make a profit.

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