Broadcast and production executives from the Gulf region have lamented the demise of tview, the UAE’s People Meter TV audience measurement system, which officially closed down on November 30, 2016.
tview was operated by global audience measurement company, Kantar Media, for Emirates Media Measurement Company (EMMC), which was in turn owned by its stakeholders: Abu Dhabi Media, Etisalat, Rotana Media, Sharjah Media and twofour54.
The closure of tview was communicated to EMMC’s stakeholders in an email from Andy Brown, CEO and chairman of Kantar Media. In the stinging email, Brown accused EMMC’s stakeholders of failing to fulfil their obligations to tview. “Whilst we have fulfilled all contractual obligations, the stakeholders of EMMC […] have not,” the email stated.
Brown added that the failure of EMMC’s stakeholders to fulfil their obligations had left Kantar with “no choice but to withdraw the TV ratings service from the market”.
While the legal fallout and the exact reasons behind the collapse of tview are yet to be seen, most broadcast professionals agree that the demise of the organisation – which had been the first People Meter-based audience measurement system in the Middle East – marks a severe blow to the UAE’s free-to-air broadcast industry.
As Brown said succinctly in his email: “The UAE TV industry will be left with no option but to trade without an internationally accepted TV ratings currency. The absence of objective ratings is likely to lead advertisers to question their investments and damage the long term prosperity of the regions media and advertising market.”
Certainly, all of the broadcast executives who spoke to Digital Studio Middle East, including stakeholders in EMMC, agreed with Brown’s prognosis.
Maryam Al Mheiri, acting CEO at twofour54, said: “tview was a unique and ambitious project that brought effective, transparent, and reliable TV audience measurement to the UAE. It was successful in delivering those objectives and it is disappointing to many in the broadcast industry, including twofour54, that tview has ceased operation. Because we value the importance of understanding audience data and ratings behaviour, we had a minority shareholding in tview and we have fulfilled all our obligations. twofour54 remains committed to the importance of audience measurement.”
Turki Al Shabanah, CEO of Rotana’s television network, said of tview’s closure: “It’s a shame to have such a thing not supported by the broadcasters. There’s no justification for such a thing; no one is benefitting from not having a true and fair people measurement [system] except for the people who are actually benefitting from not having the truth.”
Chris O’Hearn, who was general manager of tview from 2011 to 2016 and led the team that established the initiative, said: “It's a great pity that apart from a few notable supporters the industry didn't embrace this technology which is used around the world and I have no doubt the industry as a whole will suffer for it. Unfortunately for various reasons there is too much short term, narrow thinking.”
Furthermore, while some naysayers might claim that TV audience measurement is becoming less important as online viewing rises, O’Hearn points out that People Meter systems remain “the absolute bedrock of accurate measurement”.
“To have let tview disappear is a very disappointing setback which will actually make it harder to move forward and embrace new technologies,” he said.
The closure of tview was all the more disappointing for O’Hearn and the system’s supporters given that it had passed a key audit in May 2016. tview’s people meter system was endorsed as being aligned with international standards and recommended for use by the UAE media industry, according a report from independent auditors CESP.
Most notably, the key area of panelist compliance, which measures the active participation of the panelists in the measurement process has passed the 85% benchmark set by CESP and agreed by industry representatives.
“Given that sections of the industry had spent three years saying they would support it once it passed the audit, and given that it had passed the audit, I think people have to draw their own conclusions about the fact that the system was nevertheless allowed to die,” O’Hearn said.