New definitions, lower ratings.

The world of media is changing.

Also the definitions, that were so logical and clear in the past are blurring.

Take television, the definition of the media silo.

It used to be a device, and all the programming and other content that was displayed through that screen was also known under the definition television.

Than we got a Set Top Box, so named, because it was a box that was placed on top of the television set (the device). Next were the flat screens and digital television sets and the STB is still used to bring more “television” content on the screen (but does not fit anymore on top of the set). Now we have streaming video and we have You Tube and NetFlix and numerous others and we still call it Television…., or not?


These days Television JIC’s have the tendency to define television broadly as the television stations themselves are more and more on line and their content can be displayed on all kind of screens. Logically that means that Television Station Owners should be very happy because their content has a much higher opportunity to be consumed than before. So their demand would be: measure all screens.


But the consequence is that if we measure more  screens, the door is open to measure other video content on those screens too.

And that means that the market share of the classical television content is going to be lower. The wider we open the definition of what television content is, the lower the share of each of the parts will be. (And the more expensive the measurement will be)


We improve the definitions of the universe in countries, because that is improving the quality of measurement, but the effects are sometimes shocking.

In Switzerland the new Television Audience Measurement was introduced in January 2013, the panel improved the penetration of technologically more advanced households.  However, that meant there was a higher proportion of younger households and, not surprisingly, younger households watch less television. Additionally,  the reporting universe, formerly households with television,  was changed into the total population, including households without TV. That, among other changes (improvements), implied that some stations saw their ratings and market shares falling down more than others. One station went to court and the judge did forbid the publication of the data. It is not easy for a judge in a Swiss Cantonal court to understand these kinds of effects (or for any other judge anywhere else).


Sometimes I have the feeling that there seems to be a general law in Audience Measurement that the more advanced we measure and the better we control our sampling and the better the definition of the universe is, the lower the ratings. (And the more costly the measurement)


Leendert van Meerem

June 13, 2013

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