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TV meters yet to provide a clearer picture

A year since introduction in UAE situation is still blurry

Image Credit: AP
Palestinians watch the performance of Arab Idol winner Mohammad Assaf in the WestBank city of Nablus. Broadcasters are charging premium advertisement rates for popularprogrammes such as Arab Idol, The X Factor, and others.
Gulf News

Dubai: A year down the line you still don’t see enough of them.

TV meters — which measure how many viewers are watching what and at what time and thus help advertisers gauge the popularity, or otherwise, of content — was introduced with some fanfare in the UAE and thus became the first in the region to do so. They were supposed to once and for all nail down whether the popular TV programmes in the region actually command the kind of viewership that their broadcasters lay claim to.

That would, in turn, determine whether the premium charged for TV commercials running alongside particular programmes and in certain time slots was actually worth what the broadcasters were charging.

At least, this was the thinking of what TV meters would help achieve. But, a year on, the reality is slightly distorted. By and large their introduction has been received with indifference, if not apathy.

“The project’s fruition depends on agencies, clients and media identifying common grounds of interest and — with the help of proven expertise, both locally and internationally — following through by using those approaches that guarantee statistically valid and reliable results,” said Dr. Lance de Masi, president of the UAE Chapter of IAA (International Advertising Association). “The IAA supports all efforts to make such fruition a reality. The uncertainty regarding the introduction of TV meters in the UAE has been around for years.”

Historically, there has been a major disconnect between claimed viewership numbers and the actuals. Leading advertisers and agencies have been campaigning for years to make TV meters a facet of the local broadcasting landscape. But it was only over the last two years that something concrete emerged from all that effort. 
After all that, have TV meters lost the plot? “No, the moment is not lost... it is yet to come,” said Rishi Saxena, research director at Business Compass Mena. “TV Meters are very much in place and have been evolving for the better since their launch almost a year back.

“The process has become more inclusive, involving key stakeholders such as advertisers, media agencies and media owners in strategically shaping the initiative.

“In the UAE, the core emphasis is on creating a system that is technically sound for our market, that serves as a role model, as it gets scaled across other countries in the region.”

But the delay in gaining traction is costing the TV industry dear in terms of ad dollars spent. According to market feedback, ad spend on TV commercials may have actually taken a hit in the local market in the year to date. Part of it could be that broadcasters had raised their ad tariffs — by between 25 to 40 per cent — at the start of the year and this prompted advertisers to be even more diligent how and where they were spending their budgets.

But the delay in creating a wider base of households using TV meters is also holding back ad spend on TV.

“In general, the cost of TV content is witnessing a sharp increase due to the higher quality of programming the region is increasingly attracting,” said an industry source. “The cost of acquisition and production in Arabic of popular international formats such as Arabs’ Got Talent, The X Factor, Arab Idol and programmes of a similar nature is being endorsed in the advertising rates.

“Rising media costs are definitely a concern for media agencies on behalf of their clients, because this means we have to support a certain level of inflation that neither our clients nor us are prepared to bear. That is why we have to be more creative when it comes to making sure that our clients are actually able to secure value for their money, decent inflation rates and growth.”