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What are you watching? Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: By April, advertisers in Saudi Arabia will be able to get a reading on the TV viewing habits of households there – as well as content consumed over OTT (over-the-top) platforms such as Netflix, YouTube, OSN Play, Apple TV and MBC’s Shahid. This will be done through a new TV and video audience measurement launched by the Media Rating Company (MRC).

The OTT viewership add-on is quite a first for the region, offering insights into what is now a hugely popular entertainment option for audiences. “In the first phase, we will be able to track both content on satellite TV channels as well as those from OTT connected to ‘smart’ TVs,” said Bandar Almashhadi, CEO of MRC, which plans to install measurement meters in up to 2,000 homes in Saudi Arabia.

OTT channels have taken out a huge chunk of viewers from satellite and terrestrial TV channels. Any tracker of OTT viewer habits measured in real terms would thus help advertisers know the actual score between satellite and OTT channels.

The first MRC findings will be ready by next Ramadan in April and a full report by July. These data will help advertisers and agencies targeting satellite TV for their ads. MRC has tied up with Nielsen to work on spreading the meters and getting the feedback.

Right now, MRC’s mandate is only for the Saudi market, and the company has bagged the necessary clearances from the General Commission for Audio Visual (CGAM) and the Advertising Industry Board.

Quite a sample

According to Almashhadi, reaching 2,000 households in more than 20 cities will provide quite a representative sample. “In the UK, there are about 5,000 measurement meters for 70 million people,” he added. “So, Saudi Arabia's 35 million population can be well represented through 2,000 measurement meters.”

Why this matters

TV meters have been around in the UAE and Saudi Arabia for some time, but this will be the first attempt at offering something – OTT viewership patterns – that has grown exponentially in the last six years. “But past attempts have failed in not providing consistent data to clients,” said Almashhadi.

There will be a Phase 2 rollout of the programme where “We will be able to identify any device connected to the household’s wi-fi and recognise which device is being used. And using digital ‘watermarking’ techniques, we can also make out how many people in that household are actually watching at the time.”