After percolating under private ownership for four years, Nielsen is going public again. This is one IPO you should stay away from.

The worldwide giant of media measurement and consumer behavior research was taken off the public markets in 2006 in a blockbuster $10 billion leveraged buyout. A consortium of seven private equity firms ponied up the dough, led by household names The Blackstone Group (NYSE: BX), Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts (NYSE: KFN), and The Carlyle Group. The proposed IPO is set to collect $1.75 billion, but don't take that as a massive loss; the consortium will sit on most of its shares, and Nielsen is supposedly worth about $21 billion in total. Doubling your money in four years despite the global panic of 2008 sounds like a pretty sweet deal for the private equity people.

But this could very well be Nielsen's swan song. My former employer (I was an operational cost center on the balance sheet, keeping computer systems happy and healthy) is best known for the eponymous TV ratings service, which helps broadcast networks and advertisers decide how much advertising spots are worth. That bread-and-butter operation seems destined for the scrap heap in relatively short order.

The rise of digital cable and satellite broadcast services is making Nielsen boxes obsolete. There is nothing to stop Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) from collecting, packaging, and then reselling viewership data right from the cable boxes, after all. The only real value of that Nielsen data becomes the centralized collection, so the networks and ad spot buyers don't have to go around to several cable operators and reconcile the differences between them. But even then, Google seems dead-set on applying its real-time auction system to TV advertising.

Nielsen will not die, as the company also provides valuable reports in other fields. But when the breadwinner segment is forced to compete with cable operators and online advertising experts, the value of that core business will dwindle. And so will the stock.

I wish my ex-colleagues all the best, but the future ain't looking too bright. Sorry, guys.

Would you touch this IPO with a 10-foot pole? Discuss in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google, but no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.