A system to measure UAE television audience figures was commercially launched to broadcasters and advertising agencies yesterday in a move to help grow the Arab world's nearly US$5billion (Dh18.36bn) advertising industry.
Emirates Media Measurement Company (EMMC) began a staged roll-out of the people meter system, which will have an official launch in October and will be known as "tview".
It aims to boost the TV media industry by providing transparent and reliable ratings on viewers and enticing outside advertisers to spend in the UAE.
"tview is a major step forward for the TV and advertising industry in the UAE, providing in-depth, objective data which can be used to make better programmes, improve TV schedules and help advertisers reach the people who are most interested in their products," said Christopher O'Hearn, the general manager at EMMC, in a statement on Wam, the Government's news agency.
EMMC is a joint venture of the broadcast entities Abu Dhabi Media, which owns and publishes The National; Sharjah Media; Rotana Media; and Etisalat, and is also supported by du.
Advertisers in the Arab world spend the most on TV compared with any other form of media, including newspapers, magazines, radio and digital.
Arab viewers watch about three hours of TV each day, according to the Arab Media Outlook, published by Dubai Press Club and Deloitte.
"I think [tview] is significant because one of the factors that is limiting the development of the advertising industry in the Middle East and North Africa region is the lack of clarity about who is watching what and what the audience is for particular programmes," said Matthew Reed, a senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media.
Tview can provide minute-by-minute viewing data to companies based on the previous day's TV schedule.
The data includes demographic information such as nationality, gender, location, age and socio-economic status for viewers aged 4 and above. It is reported anonymously and individuals are not personally identified.
About 850 homes have been chosen to take part. They will become the tview panel and have the people meter boxes installed in their homes and connected to their television screens.
The International Advertising Association (IAA) said it welcomed the introduction of people meters in the UAE, but said greater cooperation was needed in the industry to ensure tview was a success.
"The IAA supports any measurement that brings further transparency and enhancement to the model of audience measurement and therefore believes that TV meters are good for the industry," said Ghassan Harfouche, the treasurer of the IAA UAE chapter.
"However, for the EMMC system or any other system to bring practical benefits to the industry and evolves into a trading currency, it has to gain the consensus and adoption of the key stakeholders in the industry, mainly the clients, broadcasters and media agencies," he added. "We therefore invite the EMMC members to reach out to other stakeholders to ensure everyone's voice is heard; this can only help promoting clarity and transparency which eventually improve the outcome of this initiative"
Advertising accounts for 78 per cent of revenues from TV, with the remaining 22 per cent from the pay-per-view format, and revenues are expected to increase at a rate of 8 per cent each year until 2015.
The Arab Media Outlook says the regional advertising market is currently worth $4.9bn, a figure set to rise by an average of 6.7 per cent annually to hit $6bn in 2015.
Tview is a federal Cabinet initiative and has been led by the National Media Council and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority. A similar project is expected to be launched in Saudi Arabia in September.
"[Tview] is the first project of its kind in the Gulf and I am very pleased that the UAE, with its thriving media sector, is leading the way," said Ibrahim Al Abed, the director-general of the National Media Council and chairman of the EMMC.