The television landscape is changing: New players are entering the market and digital terrestrial television (DTT) is upon us.
Over the past 10 years, the South African Advertising Research Foundation (SAARF), in conjunction with its stakeholders, has made strides in ensuring that the measurement of television audiences is relevant and credible. Changes to TAMS in recent years include switching to reiterative method weighting (RIM) in 2004 – to ensure that the sample reflects the population more accurately; the inclusion of a black rural sample on the TAMS panel in 2007, and measuring children four years and older since 2008.
Despite these changes, the current TAMS will soon no longer be sufficient to deal with the challenges brought about by the dynamic television landscape.
One such challenge is fragmentation, which is exacerbated by the expected introduction of newly licensed pay-TV players and DTT (which allows broadcasters to introduce more channels than ever before). These developments will pose a challenge in the sense that the sample may be too small to collect credible audience data for small or niche channels. Measuring total TV viewership is another challenge, as people will increasingly not only view television in their homes (as is currently measured by TAMS) but also on mobile phones, portable TVs, PCs and in public places with big screens and so forth. This reality will become even more evident in the run-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, as people are expected to watch television on big screens more often.
The implications for audience measurement of time-shifted viewing (the process of recording and storing TV programmes for later viewing by using Digital or Personal Video Recorders (DVR/PVR)) need to be considered as a matter of urgency. Regional TV splits (where people in different regions view different adverts on the same channel at the same time), is another phenomenon that future measurement should be able to handle.
Possible alternative audience measurement methodologies and solutions include those that centre on following the viewer (for example, a device that can be carried around), as opposed to the current TAMS methodology, which is static as the measuring device is attached to the television set.
The use of non-intrusive and passive/near-passive technology for audience measurement should be considered a preferred approach. Currently, members of the TAMS panel have to indicate when they start and stop viewing by pushing a button on a remote. Solutions which are less reliant on the actions of the panel member (for example, a device which automatically registers viewing patterns), would increase the reliability of data.
The possibility of using a multimedia measurement system which can collect TV data, radio data, and out-of-home-media data simultaneously, instead of collecting data separately for each medium, is now technologically feasible and deserves serious consideration.
UNITAM, a new meter system developed and produced by AGB Nielsen Media Research’s Media Instruments Division, is one of the possible solutions for future TV audience measurement. Audio referencing technology, which can pick up audio from television sets in order to register viewing patterns, is at the heart of this system. It can monitor the use of PCs for TV viewing, and portable units for measuring out-of-home TV viewing will soon be available as part of this solution.
Eventually, a suitable measurement at a sustainable cost has to be agreed upon by the broader television industry. SAARF’s stakeholders have formed a TAMS subcommittee, which is looking at the challenges of TV measurement in South Africa. They will meet regularly to map the way forward.
A lot of groundwork through pilots and engagement of television industry stakeholders will have to be embarked upon to ensure that all angles are explored, needs sifted through and the most important ones addressed. This will ensure that some of the identified challenges are not exaggerated and unnecessarily addressed when they are in actual fact not significant.
Considering the TV audience measurement challenges, it seems quite possible that no single system will be adequate to serve as a complete solution and that a hybrid methodology may have to be considered.
This article is based on a recent TAMS information day.
Lucas Raganya joined SAARF as a technical support executive from Tiger Brands, where he worked as research manager. Raganya holds a Master’s degree in Research Psychology.
- This article first appeared in The Media magazine (January 2009)