People meters: who's watching?

The unique challenges facing audience measurement in the UAE.
Audience measurement, Capgemini, Delavenne, FTA, Middle east advertising, National Media Council, NMC, People meter, UAE, Analysis, Broadcast Business

Share investigates the impending UAE people meter project and the unique challenges it presents.

The potential benefits of a TV audience measurement system in the Middle East are well documented. The challenge facing the industry now is to implement the system in the markets where it matters most.

The progress of the UAE people meter project received a significant boost last year when the National Media Council (NMC) became involved.

The organisation’s involvement has helped to pull together the various stakeholders and accelerate the project’s development. The NMC hired Capgemini Consulting to assess the best route for a people meter in the UAE and reported its findings last October.

“We recommended the use of a large panel size for the UAE of between 750-1000 households. The population profile in the UAE is very complex and the structure of the sample that you use must represent this,” says Romain Delavenne, director of telecom, media and entertainment in the Middle East for Capgemini Consulting.

“This is around 1000 sample homes representing a country of 1 million households in total. In the UK the panel is 5000 homes for a country 20 million households. The UAE sampling must be around four times denser,” adds Delavenne.

Recommending a larger panel also means suggesting an investment that is larger than previously thought.

“The bigger the panel the more expensive it is. But when you look at the size of investment required to go from 500 to 1000 households, it is not very much compared to the value of the credibility that a large panel brings,” explains Delavenne. “Nobody should have reason to be suspicious about the quality of the information. All the value is based on this credibility. The involvement of the NMC as a neutral body is important. If one channel does its own numbers then those results could be prejudiced.”

This value presents itself in the form of an expanded TV advertising business. Delavenne says that this does not mean that money from other mediums with be transferred to TV, instead it will attract advertisers to increase their investment in advertising where a people meter system is in place.

“Advertisers in the Middle East tend to use print and outdoor more than elsewhere because these two mediums are measurable. The impact of a people meter will be to bring new investment to TV. If you cannot measure, you cannot sell.

“The [UAE] ad market is worth around half what it should be. It is difficult to place an accurate number on the impact a people meter could have on the market because the Middle East is such a unique region. There is both pan-regional and national advertising – a situation not repeated anywhere else – so it is hard to say for sure,” says Delavenne.

“If an advertiser is given the option of investing in the UAE market once it has a people meter in place, or in a another Gulf country of a similar size, it is quite an easy choice.”

The benefits of audience measurement extend beyond the obvious boost to advertising revenues.

“A people meter will improve the economy. It offers advertisers better value for money and more confidence. It allows broadcasters to attract more advertising as well as providing feedback on the audiences across the programming schedule.

“The people meter issue has never been about why, but how. All the parties agree that this is a crucial development. It is difficult however to balance who is going to pay for what, it is a complex situation that requires much discussion,” says Delavenne.

The negotiation phase has also been a lengthy one in Saudi Arabia, where its so-called Project Illumination measurement scheme has been making slow progress for years. Delavenne is confident that the involvement of the NMC will play a crucial role in moving the UAE project to the implementation stage.

“Discussions about people meters seem to have been going on in the Middle East for 10 years now. The NMC is now telling the UAE market it is important to put in place and that was an important step,” he says.

The NMC has stated that the UAE people meter is now in an advanced phase and has said it expects it to be operational in the very near future.

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