The recent audit by the South African Audience Research Foundation into the methodology used by the Television Audience Measurement Survey (TAMS) has revealed what it calls “some serious issues” that need “rectification”.
Not least is the fact that there has been over-sampling at the top end of the television viewing market, and what Saarf calls “instability” in the LSM 1-4 sector. Then there’s the issue of if DStv benefitted from the weighting at the top end, and how free-to-air channels the SABC and e.tv were compromised.
Late last year, Saarf announced that it would use DStv’s audited figures for weighting the pay channel’s penetration, PVR penetration and the bouquet percentages within the DStv universe on the Television Audience Measurement Survey’s (TAMS) panel. At the time, Saarf CEO Paul Haupt said the decision to conduct an audit of the efficacy of the TAMS was “not taken lightly”.
He said because we lived in a “very dynamic time”, Saarf “couldn’t afford to allow research to become divorced from reality”. A company that specialises in auditing media audience surveys, CESP of France, was appointed to conduct the research. The decision to launch an independent audit into the current panel was due in a large part to stakeholder concerns.
The brief to the researchers was that they “review the methodology, identify any possible shortcomings in the panel as well as areas of improvement, and guide the intended multimillion Rand expansion project which will eventually take us to a panel size of about 3 000 households and probably more than 10 000 respondents of four years and older”.
Now the audit has been completed, and the results delivered to the Saarf board of directors. It is still to be discussed by stakeholders.
In a statement, Saarf said the overall findings showed that the methodology of the South African Television Measurement System corresponds to the international best practices on both establishment survey and TAMS panel and that they are comparable to similar TAMS in other countries. But it also revealed areas that need urgent attention, not least that the current panel is “imbalanced, with the over-sampling of DStv and HD PVR households coupled with the under-sampling of the rural areas (mostly LSM 1-4) although this is corrected by the weighting”.
The research showed the panel “does not reflect the national profile of the TV viewing population closely enough. Although this is corrected by weighting, the efficiency of the RIM weighting is low but from the insights gained from the audit, this can be improved”.
“The goal here would be to diminish the large range in weights in order to improve the weighting efficiency. This would work towards improving the audience fluctuations, which have been cause for concern amongst broadcasters and media buyers in particular,” Saarf said.
Other issues include replacing of households that have been on the panel for more than 10 years and the Eurometers which have been the backbone of the panel over many years and the metering of multiple television sets in homes with more than one TV set were also raised as issues needing attention. Plus there is a “downward trend in viewing that will need further investigation”.
Clearly, there is much needed to be done to address those deficiencies and Saarf has some tough work ahead. Haupt calls it a “work in progress” and estimates that due to the “complexity” of the weighting system, this could take up to a year to complete.
“Unfortunately the Board meeting has been postponed till next week so I can’t comment on anything yet,” he told The Media Online.
In the meantime, what of those most impacted, SABC and e.tv?
Anton Heunis, group executive of the SABC’s commercial enterprises, says the SABC believes the findings of the recent TAMS audit commissioned by Saarf will have far-reaching implications. “It would be premature to comment more specifically until further analyses have been conducted. The SABC and other television broadcasters will be engaging Saarf through the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) about their concerns,” he says.
“As you may be aware, the SABC was one of the stakeholders that registered its concern with Saarf in the latter part of 2012 about perceived credibility issues relating to the TAMS Panel. In view of the vast impact any erroneous data would have on the media advertising industry as a whole, the SABC requested Saarf to commission a comprehensive audit of the TAMS panel,” says Heunis.
Free-to-air station e.tv is also playing the waiting game. “e.tv is deeply concerned at the results of the audit. We are currently engaged in further analysis to determine the impact on e.tv and we will be engaging with Saarf through the NAB on this issue. At this stage it would be premature to comment on e.tv’s proposed action but we will be issuing a statement at the appropriate time,” says chief operating officer, Bronwyn Keene-Young.
Haupt says an “action plan” has been drawn up to make improvements to the panel, and will be discussed at a board meeting with all stakeholders due to take place this week.
Saarf does believe there is a silver lining on the horizon as the organisation is “on the brink of the largest increase in the number of households measured by TAMS, in the history of the panel”.
This, it says,” will go a long way to help combat audience fragmentation and to meet other challenges such as the measurement of time shifted viewing, the viewing of television on numerous other devices and platforms as well as providing a good framework for TV measurement after the rollout of DTT”.
Cinema ad spend update
Following the announcement late last year on the suspension of supplying the media industry and its stakeholders with cinema ad spend data, Cinemark, Popcorn Cinema Advertising Sales and AC Nielsen have announced that they have found a more accurate model of reporting cinema data. Both Cinemark and Pop Corn will be submitting monthly figures respectively. These figures will now be released starting with the reporting of Cinema AdSpend for 2013 to date. AC Nielsen will keep the industry informed as to progress made.