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BROADCASTERS SAY THEY ARE LEAVING THE MIDDLE AGES OF TELEVISION

A meter of importance

A NEW ERA in measuring TV channels' and programmes' popularity dawned in Slovakia on August 15. The laborious and approximate method of diaries was replaced by people meters, which should give a much more exact picture of the popularity of individual programmes and channels.
Until now, the number of people following a TV broadcast was measured by the so-called diary method.

A NEW ERA in measuring TV channels' and programmes' popularity dawned in Slovakia on August 15. The laborious and approximate method of diaries was replaced by people meters, which should give a much more exact picture of the popularity of individual programmes and channels.

Until now, the number of people following a TV broadcast was measured by the so-called diary method. Every 15 minutes, selected households would mark in a diary what TV programmes and channels they were watching. For TV Markíza, this data was collected by the Visio company; public broadcaster Slovak Television (STV) evaluated its popularity by its own methods.

Analysts share the view that the Visio survey reflected greater loyalty among Markíza spectators, while the continuous research carried out by STV regularly showed the public station achieving better results. The JOJ and TA3 broadcasters consistently rejected the results of both survey methods, arguing that they did not provide a real picture of the media market, wrote the Pravda daily.

On August 15, a test operation of the meters was launched in Slovakia. The meters should accurately measure the amount of time people spend watching specific television stations. Altogether, 2,500 people in 800 households throughout the country have meters installed in their TV sets. Their preferences will be measured and collected and the first results should be available on October 15.

The operation should test the meter software and participant behaviour in the project. Measurement is provided by the TNS SK agency and its annual cost will be Sk55 million (€1.4 million).

TNS SK started the meter project on the basis of a contract signed with the PMT company, established by STV and private TV stations Markiza, JOJ, TA3, and the Association of Media Agencies, wrote the SITA news wire.

Earlier this year, TNS SK completed an introductory survey that was the first stage of a project monitoring viewer ratings using the meters. In the survey, the agency determined a representative sample of respondents and defined the factors that most influence the viewer's choice of TV programmes. The agency carried out 8,685 interviews on the basis of which it has selected its respondents.

Then they installed TARIS 5000 people meters, which use GPRS technology, into the television sets in the households of selected respondents. Slovakia will become the first country in Europe to use this technology to measure TV ratings. The devices will provide viewer results within 30 minutes of a programme's end.

Electronic measurement of viewer ratings has been standard practice on the European TV market for almost a decade. In the Czech republic, the popularity of the Nova TV station dropped by 12 percent when the new technology was introduced. "I do not think that in Slovakia it will be equally dramatic, but a certain drop for the largest TV stations can be expected," Erika Madejová from the Cia Slovakia company told the Pravda daily.

"On the basis of world experience we know that the ratio of the shares of individual TV stations does not change in a dramatic way after the introduction of the electronic measurement - the leader stays the leader. In respect to following individual titles, we expect changes at all the TV stations," Ivana Semjanová, head of Markíza's public relations department, told to The Slovak Spectator.

"STV welcomes the introduction of people meters. Output in the form of data has been at our disposal since August 16. We are starting to analyse it and set the information systems to receive the data and evaluate it. For the media people, it is very interesting reading," Branislav Zahradník, a member of STV management, told the SME daily.

"The data from the people meters will mean the introduction of a single currency on the TV market, which will go a long way towards making an objective distribution of advertising expenditures. Whether it will represent a growth or a drop of advertising incomes in the case of TA3 TV we will know on October 15," Olívia Trnkalová, TA3 public relations manager, told The Slovak Spectator.

"TV JOJ has supported the introduction of people meters since its establishment. We are glad that the Middle Ages of TV, when popularity was measured by the diary method, has finally ended in Slovakia," JOJ spokesman Ľudovít Tóth told the SME daily.

Critics of the meters warn that they are not ideal. Spectators may register that they are watching programmes even as they sleep on their sofas.

"Despite this fact, it is undoubtedly a technological advance - it is quicker and more exact," Visio company head Pavel Haulík told the Pravda daily.

Apparently in agreement, the Slovak broadcasters are taking the introduction of meters seriously and are preparing several programme changes for October.

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