x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The box on the TV set draws near

Television broadcasters are preparing to launch "people meters" - small digital boxes - to track, minute by minute, the viewing habits of residents in the Emirates.

Television broadcasters are preparing to launch "people meters" - small digital boxes - to track, minute by minute, the viewing habits of residents in the Emirates.

The boxes, which link to televisions, are to be deployed and activated in about 850 homes by the end of next month.

They will measure exactly what people watch to help broadcasting companies to set advertising rates in what is estimated to be a US$4 billion (Dh14.6bn) to $4.5bn a year overall advertising industry within the Middle East and North Africa.

"There are reports that people do not advertise in this region because they cannot get reliable data," said Chris O'Hearn, the general manager of the Emirates Media Measurement Company, which represents a group of businesses behind the initiative. "In the future, [advertisers] will say this many people actually watched my ad."

The media company includes a number of stakeholders that are underwriting the cost of this technology, including the telecommunications companies Etisalat and du, as well as media firms such as Rotana, Sharjah Media Corporation and Abu Dhabi Media, which owns and publishes The National.

The people meters would roll out once a final partner within the group signs on, Mr O'Hearn said, and the devices would rely on an audio-matching feature to identify in real time which TV channels and shows people were watching.

The device could also determine whether individuals were viewing a DVD or videogame, though not a specific title, and plans to capture shows that are recorded but watched at a later time would be finalised in the future.

"We are very close to the last signature to get us up and running," said Mr O'Hearn, who spoke at a panel yesterday on the need for audience measurement systems during Cabsat, a media and satellite exhibition in Dubai

The personal identities of TV viewers will remain anonymous.

nparmar@thenational.ae

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