Where were you on the night of March 24, 2012 just after midnight? If you were looking for an alibi youd have a good one like another 391,604 people, you were watching the Arab Idol finale. Thats more than 6% of the whole population of the UAE, and dont forget, less than half of […]
Where were you on the night of March 24, 2012 just after midnight?
If you were looking for an alibi youd have a good one like another 391,604 people, you were watching the Arab Idol finale. Thats more than 6% of the whole population of the UAE, and dont forget, less than half of the UAE is Arabic-speaking. In terms of the audience watching TV at that time, more than 63%, nearly two in every three Emiratis and Arabs were watching at the peak. It was the biggest single moment of the year in terms of television in the UAE.
So what else have we learnt after a year of people meters in the UAE?
That people watch Arab Idol, Harem Al Soltan and Bade Aache? That MBC1 is the most popular channel? That Asianet is the biggest Asian channel?
If this was all, it would be no surprise. We knew, or guessed those things already.
Two things stand out for me from the first year of detailed audience measurement in the UAE.
The first might be summed up in a saying from Yorkshire, in northern England which is Theres nowt so queer as folk.
It means that people behave in strange and unpredictable ways they always have and always will.
They dont watch the same channels every night. They stop watching programmes; they skip episodes; they pick up halfway through a series. Even stranger, Arab households watch Indian channels, Emirati men watch Bollywood movies dubbed in Arabic and yes, women watch football.
There have been times when Ive looked at the results and wondered how such a thing was possible but on further investigation you realise that yes, there are local men with foreign wives so thats why an Emirati household might watch an English or Hindi channel. When we looked at ratings for the UAE Football League, we discovered that around a third of viewing comes from women.
When we looked at why a programme dips in the middle of a series, we discovered that a major one-off celebrity event was on a rival channel that night.
How do we explain such things? The answer is, we check there are no problems or technical causes but beyond that, we dont try.
As Sherlock Holmes would say to Watson, When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
These things happen, not on a massive scale but enough to be measured. And its enough for smart advertisers and programmers to take advantage of trends and behaviours that may never have been spotted previously.
Thats something that will become more normal as the market matures and learns to use this data in a more granular way. For now, however, the focus is still very much on top channels, and with that in mind, the surprise is perhaps that MBC is even more dominant than was previously suspected.
The second big area that stood out for me was Ramadan. If you talk to anyone in the region at certain times, you might be forgiven for thinking Ramadan was the only time of the year they cared about in terms of programmes, and that viewers were glued to their sets ready to absorb every piece of content.
No doubt, there is an effect on consumption generally, but in television viewing, the picture is not as clear cut research so
Yes theres an upswing in viewing in Ramadan and it is more concentrated in the evening but only by about 30 minutes per day for Arab expats. In fact, for Emiratis, theres hardly any change.
And the Ramadan shows do well but theres plenty of competition the rest of the year. Its the big entertainment shows such as Arabs Got Talent and The Voice, and series like Fatma as well as big movies that take the top spots for Arab expats. (Note that these are averages across series.)
I wonder if in future this will lead to some adjustment in budgets, for programmes and advertising. Certainly, the finance departments will welcome more even spending across the year. So there we have it, a year of audience measurement. In another years time, I hope we will be able to look back and compare year-on-year on data, and that regional television will be that much closer to having a broad, viable and sustainable business.
Christopher OHearn is general manager of Emirates Media Measurement Company, which has rolled out tview, the UAEs new television ratings and audience measurement system and the first in the Middle East. O”Hearn writes a regular exclusive column for BroadcastPro ME.