x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

TV monitoring system moves a step closer

The UAE is a step closer to the electronic measurement of TV audiences, a vital tool for advertisers.

The UAE is a step closer to the electronic measurement of TV audiences, a vital tool for advertisers, after the National Media Council (NMC) and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) yesterday appointed an international consultant to advise on the project. Advertising buyers and media watchers have long complained of the lack of definitive audience data, saying that without such information spending on television advertising in the UAE will remain low.

A metering system, common in Europe and North America, allows advertisers to gauge whether they are hitting their target market and whether TV companies' rates are fair. The NMC, which regulates the UAE media industry, and the TRA did not name the company they had appointed to advise them through the process of setting up the national system. But they said in a statement that such a system would have a "far-reaching, positive impact on major multinational broadcasters and advertisers".

The announcement was welcomed by the two major companies producing similar local audience data: Lebanon's Ipsos and the Pan-Arab Research Centre (PARC), based in Dubai. Ipsos plans to bid for the contract to install and manage the new system, based on its experience in running a similar operation in Lebanon, while PARC expects the service to generate new demand for its own research. "It will do a great deal of good for the industry," said Sami Raffoul, the general manager of PARC. "More data and better information will only help us all grow and we know this will be welcomed."

Parc produces audience estimates by randomly calling households and asking what programmes were viewed the previous day. The method is considered imprecise, incorporating a considerable element of human error. The new system being considered by the NMC and the TRA is expected to use electronic set-top boxes, known as people meters, which track viewing patterns and send them to a central database. While such a system may make current viewer data obselete, Mr Raffoul believes it will not answer deeper questions about viewer behaviour.

"All it does is measure the quantity of viewing," he said. "It doesn't say why viewers watch a programme and it doesn't show how certain feelings are evolving in mind of the consumer. "That area of work is a broad and open field and as the TV market grows, so will the demand for this type of research." Ipsos in Lebanon operates the only people meter system in the region. "We've doing this for the last 10 years," said Elie Aoun, its chief operating officer. "We badly need this system across the region, and whether or not we get the contract it is good news for everybody. Whenever there is a people meter, ad revenues increase."

tgara@thenational.ae