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TV ratings – finally!

TV ratings – finally!

Not so fast. Some people won’t trust the data even when it arrives. If it ever does.

October 26, 2008 1:28 by

Last week, The National reported on the long-delayed media initiative dubbed Project Illumination – the effort, under way for eternity and a day, to install TV ratings boxes in Arab family homes so that advertisers can know precisely who’s watching what and when.

It’s a staple in more developed markets, but it’s never happened in the Arab world (except for Lebanon) for various reasons. Those reasons aren’t worth going into here, but let’s just say it has a lot to do with the fact that too many of the major players in the Arab media industry just don’t get along too well.

The latest news is that Dubai Media City is involved with the project. That might give it some additional steam in the UAE. After all, probably another reason it’s difficult to get such cross-industry initiatives off the ground in this part of the world is that so little happens here – in business, as in any sphere of life – without government involvement. And “people meters,” as the system is dubbed, is primarily a non-governmental initiative. Call it a “civil society” project, albeit one that’s mainly aimed at improving the livelihoods of big advertisers, rather than everyday people.

So that suggests progress. The UAE is not the market that matters most, however. Saudi Arabia is. The project there, which is being handled jointly by market researchers AGN Nielsen, Ipsos and Pan-Arab Research Centre, has hit a snag as it waits for a license from the Saudi government to go into people’s homes and install the boxes.

But even when they are installed, industry experts are skeptical about the validity of the results. Media planners and buyers who know how things work on the ground in Saudi say they won’t trust the data even when it does arrive, claiming that the sample size is too small, and that it is not truly representative of Saudi households.

Such is the level of pessimism that many agencies will continue to trust their own research, even after the much vaunted arrival of people meters. So much for a common media currency.

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1 Comment

  1. Nureddin on November 4, 2008 10:24 am

    Important to add: Whatever the shortcomings, the new system by definition will be better than what the market has right now: Completely un-audited figures.


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