The UAE’s television industry has undergone an important shift in the way it conducts business, not to mention a sea change for the regional advertising market, following years growing viewership. “Electronic audience measurement is the default system in more than 60 countries around the world,” Christopher O’Hearn, general manager of the Emirates Media Measurement Company (EMMC), a firm responsible for data collection technology called tview, told local media in 2014. “By introducing it to the UAE, tview allows broadcasters and advertisers to make like-for-like comparisons of their return on investment and ultimately will lead to significant growth in what is generally agreed to be an undervalued market.”
The EMMC adopted the tview audience rating and reporting system as its standard in December 2014, and it has been taken up for industry-wide use across the UAE. The technology has been steadily changing the shape of the television broadcast sector across the region. Tarek Mounir, the general manager of Turner in MENA, Turkey, Cyprus and Greece told local media, “tview has proven a valuable tool – both editorially and commercially. The data has given us clarity on the performance of our channels and programmes as well as a better understanding of our audience demographic and the competitive landscape.”
The EMMC, is owned by a group of leading domestic broadcast media and communications companies, including Abu Dhabi Media, Sharjah Media, Rotana Media and both of the UAE’s mobile telecoms operators, namely Du and Etisalat (see ICT chapter). Both the National Media Council (the media industry regulator) and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (the telecoms sector regulator) are also involved in managing the EMMC. Kantar Media, a Philippines-based media monitoring and marketing firm, implemented the tview system in the UAE.
The EMMC’s tview system was developed in 2011 and launched in stages beginning in July 2012. Like Nielsen, a media research firm that manages a series of set-top data collection devices in the US, tview, which was installed in a representative percentage of homes across the UAE in 2012-14, promises to deliver minute-by-minute viewing data to the EMMC on a daily basis. Participant households are organised by nationality, location, gender, socio-economic status and age. All reported data is anonymous.
In 2014 tview was subjected to a six-month audit by the Centre d’étude des supports de publicité (CESP), a Paris-based media auditing and research firm. CESP reported that the technology was in line with international standards for television audience monitoring and reporting, and, as such, could be implemented widely across the country. Broadcasters and advertisers signed on to the service throughout 2014 and 2015. twofour54, a media and entertainment free zone based in Abu Dhabi, announced that it would subscribe to tview data in January 2014. Noura Al Kaabi, the CEO of twofour54, told local press at the time, “This important project is in line with twofour54’s objective of developing the region’s media industry through setting up new standards for providing television content which is reflective of the viewers’ needs”.
Various other entities in the UAE have adopted alternative methods for measuring audience television viewership. In May 2015, for example, Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI), the emirate’s state-owned media firm, announced that it had deployed a smartphone-based survey across Dubai, with the objective of producing data about television consumption behaviour. Participants entered responses into their phones while watching television, thereby generating real-time responses. (https://www.creativesystems.com/) Ultimately, this shift towards gathering better data on viewership has improved companies’ advertising strategies and enabled broadcasters to produce more appropriate content for their target markets.