Talks are under way to introduce a Gulf-wide system to measure TV audiences in a move to boost the Arab world's $4 billion advertising industry.
TV people-meters nearer for GCC states
Talks are under way to introduce a Gulf-wide system to measure TV audiences, in a move to boost the Arab world's US$4 billion (Dh14.6bn) advertising industry.
The UAE is the only Gulf country to have an accurate system of measuring TV viewership, which is used by advertisers to allocate spending to particular stations.
A similar initiative is scheduled to be launched in Saudi Arabia in the next 12 to 18 months, after which a region-wide system could be introduced.
Thomas Kuruvilla, the managing director of the consultancy Arthur D Little Middle East, said "preliminary" discussions had taken place concerning a measurement system spanning the GCC.
"The is a clear appreciation that we need to have a GCC-wide TV-audience measurement," said Mr Kuruvilla. "There is a willingness and ambition to move towards that."
A TV-audience measurement system, known as people meters, was recently introduced in the UAE. Abu Dhabi Media, which also owns and publishes The National, is a supporter of the UAE initiative.
Mr Kuruvilla and his firm are consulting on a similar system in Saudi Arabia, the largest advertising market in the Gulf. He said three regional TV companies were backing the Saudi system.
"MBC, Rotana and OSN are shareholders in that TV-audience measurement company,"he added. "There is another 25 per cent stake that is available for advertisers."
Under the system, between 1,500 and 1,800 homes in Saudi Arabia will receive monitoring boxes to to provide a representative sample of the most popular channels. The project is being led by Saudi Arabia's culture ministry.
Mr Kuruvilla said TV-audience figures helped to improve transparency in the industry, as well as boost spending on advertising.
"It will significantly increase the total value spent on advertising," he said. "If I know, transparently, who is watching the TV, then I am willing to spend more, because I know I am spending it on the right customers."
Total spending on advertising accounts for between $4bn and $4.5bn a year, according to industry executives. Television accounts for about a quarter of this.
David Butorac, the chief executive of the Dubai-based TV broadcaster OSN, confirmed that his company was a shareholder in the Saudi audience-measurement initiative.
"We see this as a necessary development in the region," he said. Middle East and North Africa "advertising revenues will never achieve their true potential alongside other world markets until the advertiser has the confidence in the measurement of the audience".
Government authorities in the UAE and Saudi Arabia recently discussed implementating a GCC-wide system, said Mr Kuruvilla. "We had a very good meeting between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, two or three weeks back. The ministry people are saying that we have to collaborate and take it forward."
Implementation of such a system would follow the launch of the Saudi Arabian initiative, he said.