By Liana B. Baker and Nicola Leske
REUTERS - Bloomberg LP revamped its market data service on Monday in an effort to make its flagship terminal more intuitive and simpler to use for financial clients who have seen their budgets slashed in recent years.
The financial sector - key customers for Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters Corp (TRI.N)TRI.TN, Factset Research Systems Inc (FDS.N) and News Corp's Dow Jones (NWSA.O) - has cut costs and laid off tens of thousands of employees in the wake of the financial crisis that ran from late 2007 to mid-2009.
The privately held company co-founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it invested more than $100 million in "Bloomberg Next" to make the platform easier for subscribers to search for data and news, including cutting the number of system functions in half.
Executives demonstrated that, if a customer wanted to search for IBM's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in the fourth quarter of 1999, the user just had to type "IBM EBITDA Q4 1999" into a search field and an answer would pop up. In the past, this would have required several key strokes.
"This is a tough market. We are constantly in a battle to prove the value of Bloomberg and 'Next' helps us do this," said Tom Secunda, Bloomberg LP's co-founder and head of the company's financial products and services division.
"Our numbers are going up, albeit slowly," he added, referring to Bloomberg's overall subscriber figures.
About 113,000 customers have already switched to the Bloomberg Next design and the company is planning to have "a high 90 percent" of its nearly 310,000 subscribers upgraded by the summer, Secunda said.
Users can still keep the old version of the product until the end of the year, but less than 1 percent of customers who have downloaded "Bloomberg Next" have asked to use the previous software, a Bloomberg spokeswoman said on Monday.
The new terminal design, which is free for existing Bloomberg customers, is expected to ratchet up competition. Thomson Reuters introduced Eikon in September 2010, designed to knit together dozens of disparate products that resulted from the 2008 acquisition of Reuters Group Plc by Thomson Corp.
Eikon also offers easier search features and the platform allows customers to build different applications to customize the terminal for their needs.
"Anything that makes Bloomberg's product easier to use from the client perspective has to be viewed as positive. I don't expect this to radically change the competition but it does turn up the competitive heat," said Piper Jaffray analyst Peter Appert.
Eikon sales have been a disappointment for Thomson Reuters shareholders. The company has more than 400,000 end users across its range of desktop products, of which 40,000 have signed up for Eikon, including 16,000 that have installed the product and are considered active users.
Bloomberg edged out Thomson Reuters last year in the $25 billion sector for market data and analysis, taking a 30.4 percent share compared with Thomson Reuters' 30.1 percent according to consulting firm Burton-Taylor.
Thomson Reuters said the Burton Taylor survey focuses on terminal sales and does not reflect other market segments the company serves in the Financial & Risk unit, where revenue also comes from sales of feeds, foreign exchange products and compliance and regulatory products.
Over the past couple of years, Bloomberg has branched out, targeting customers interested in government data, as well as the legal information market. It bought legal and regulatory research firm BNA for $990 million.
Thomson-Reuters shares listed in the United States closed up about 0.8 percent on Monday at $28.75 per share, while FactSet Research shares gained 0.2 percent to $88.94 per share on the New York Stock Exchange.
(Additional reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; editing by Peter Lauria, Lisa Von Ahn, Derek Caney and Andre Grenon)