OzTAM backflips on catch-up TV ratings rules; Southern Cross Austereo demands breakdowns

Television measurement service OzTAM has been forced to do an awkward backflip on rules that prevented TV Networks from combining new catch-up TV data with the average TV audience viewing figures.

Plus7Less than five days after OzTAM vowed to “reinforce” the rules, after both the Seven and Ten networks openly flouted the restrictions, the organisation yesterday issued new rules that now allow the agency to combine national device data with audience numbers.


Peiffer: “It’s undercounting we don’t know how many people are in front of that device.”

“There is at least one person in front of that device,” said Doug Peiffer, CEO of OzTAM. “If anything, we are probably under-counting on the VPM side because at this point we don’t know how many people are in front of that device.”

The sudden move, which came after an OzTAM board meeting yesterday, has raised eyebrows within a number media agencies and also drawn an angry response from Southern Cross Austereo, when sales boss Brian Gallagher told Mumbrella: “Seven are doing daily reports of viewing across all markets, which includes regional and rural viewers in markets where they don’t have a licence.

“So if its acceptable to publish online viewing numbers and add them to their broadcast figures, even though the methodology is different, why isn’t it ok to publish the split between metropolitan and regional online viewing?”

The original OzTAM Video Player Measurement guidelines explained the flaws in adding together VPM and TV audience data – not least that TV ratings measures people while the new VPM ratings measures devices – and the fact that the VPM rating is a national figure with no adverts shown during the broadcasts counted in the timings. The document also emphasised: “it’s not like-for-like”.

Monday's Oztam VPM guidelines.

Monday’s OzTAM VPM guidelines.

However, Peiffer dismissed suggestions of a backflip by the measurement body under pressure from its shareholders, the TV Networks.

“We put out guidelines and the users gave us feedback in the market for a few days,” said the OzTAM CEO. “We have met with the likes of the Media Federation and AANA and the broadcasters and they were all comfortable with allowing the numbers we put in there.”

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Those numbers have already seen Seven, which on Monday agreed not to total the audience with devices putting out charts which sees the VPM numbers put on top of audience, but just not added.

The new guidelines allow the figures to be added but emphasise that No demographics other than Total People should be used”, “Reach or frequency estimates may not be combined with VPM data” and that the various data sets must be labelled.

The new Oztam guidelines issued today.

The new Oztam guidelines issued yesterday.

“It is not going into the trading database so that is still separate,” said Peiffer. “This is the headline number that gives the user an understanding of how content is being consumed.

“It’s not apples and oranges – it’s apples with apples because we’re not talking (video) streams and audiences we are talking average audience to average audience.

“Now the only limitation is that I don’t have the demographics or how many people are sitting in front of that device but we are closer to apples to apples than apples to oranges.”

Questioned about Southern Cross Austereo’s demand that regional breakdowns also be provided with the regional TV network, claiming that if the metro players were able to combine their regional audience, which is taken through feeds, they should be able to see the size of the regional audience watching catch-up.

“I’m sure they have an interest in that,” said Peiffer. “At the moment we are not even breaking it down to device, we are putting out a total number.

“At this point we are not breaking it down by market, by state, or by anything. We are just reporting the total figure.”

The OzTAM CEO also sought to emphasise it was a group decision and claimed it had the support of both client body AANA and media agency body, the Media Federation of Australia.

“All the stakeholders were in the room when we had this discussion,” said Peiffer. “It was the commercial broadcasters, ABC, SBS were there plus the Media Federation and the AANA had representation and we had conversations across (the table).

“The users of the data were putting that data side-by-side and now they have agreed to put it together. We are just responding to the users.”

Asked if there would possibly be further changes to the guidelines, he said: “There will likely be additional changes to the data as we go through and digest the data and add to it. We will continue to work with our stakeholders on that.”

Nic Christensen


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