Keeping track of TV viewing is the challenge of 1999

An enormous task awaits the TV industry next year. Not the mundane challenges about prettying up the Six O’Clock News, with or without a kilt, or persuading more people to pay for digital services. The real challenge is to develop a ratings system sophisticated enough to tell broadcasters and advertisers what is really going on out there.

An enormous task awaits the TV industry next year. Not the mundane

challenges about prettying up the Six O’Clock News, with or without a

kilt, or persuading more people to pay for digital services. The real

challenge is to develop a ratings system sophisticated enough to tell

broadcasters and advertisers what is really going on out there.



The scale of the emerging problem can be gauged from the Independent on

Sunday in recent weeks. An article appeared suggesting that the BBC News

24 audience might fall to as low as 1000 viewers. The BBC replied that,

according to its own research, 760,000 people a week were watching on

cable and no less than three million on the overnight terrestrial

television service.



At first sight, such figures seem to be irreconcilable, yet both could

be true with absolute audiences dropping very low in the middle of the

night and reach magnifying things beautifully across an entire week.



The real point is that we do not really know what the audience for News

24 is other than courtesy of the BBC’s own research. Other than giving a

general feel for the state of the multi-channel TV market, this may not

be of huge significance, because News 24 is funded by the licence fee.

Accurate, independent viewing figures would enable viewers to decide

whether they are getting a good deal with such a service and show what

percentage of its target universe it was hitting. In the case of

services funded at least in part by advertising, accurate information is

more and more vital.



There has long been the view that traditional terrestrial television

viewing panels are simply much too small to come up with accurate

readings.



A few people on the panel turn off or switch on and ratings for minority

channels can either collapse or be boosted.



Unless such problems are addressed, more and more people will end up

doing their own rating, and you will lose the single most important

characteristic of current audience research - a common currency.



It is understandable that the terrestrial broadcasters have little

immediate interest in shaking up the existing system on the grounds that

it probably overstates their dominance, and why would they want to

change that?



If multi-channel TV is something that will creep up on us as part of

generational change then what better than to have viewing panels stuffed

with long serving members who might fit the necessary demographics but

who remain wedded to traditional viewing patterns.



More sophisticated technology is becoming available. The Arbitron

experiment in Manchester with Personal Portable Meters will

automatically monitor listening and viewing habits by their carriers

wherever they are, including pubs, cars and offices - media consumption

not usually counted. Then there is computer viewing and listening which

no one has a handle on yet.



It is best for all concerned that the most accurate, independent

statistics become available as soon as possible which represent the

growing diversity of media consumption - whether it shows the audience

is 1000 or three million. Advertisers should require nothing less.



Raymond Snoddy is media editor of The Times.



Discussion

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now

Latest

John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message
Lynx unleashes £9m 'Peace invasion' campaign
Social Brands 100 Youth: Pizza Hut most social youth brand in UK
Cheryl Cole is wild and arresting in new L'Oreal work
Morrisons told not to show alcohol ads during YouTube nursery rhymes
O2 head of brand Shadi Halliwell departs after 23 years at company in restructure
Tesco hit by further sales decline as it turns to digital Clubcard and social network
Branding guru Wally Olins dies aged 83
Duracell short film captures epic Transatlantic voyage
Ash runs Tinder experiment to show smokers are less desirable to opposite sex
British Airways teams up with Gerry Cottle Jnr for summer of rooftop film screenings
Arklu says 'girls can be superheroes too' with doll design competition
Coke enters squash market with Oasis Mighty Drops
Virgin Galactic signs up Land Rover as space flight sponsor
Motorola marketer Andrew Morley departs as Google gears up for sale to Lenovo
US Airways apologises after tweeting obscene image at a customer