South Africa: International audit results of TAMS due mid-May

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The SAARF Board decided last year that an international audit of the TAMS panel was necessary to review the methodology, identify any possible shortcomings in the panel as well as areas of improvement and guide the planned multimillion-rand expansion of the panel.

In December 2012, the board appointed the CESP of France, a body that specialises in the audit of media audience surveys, to undertake the audit and the final report was presented to the board on 15 April 2013. The report identified shortcomings in the sampling, weighting and management of the TAMS panel that have led to low efficiencies.

During a three-hour session, the CESP auditors took the board of directors through its 70-page audit report. Based on its auditing verifications and analysis, the overall finding is that the methodology of the South African Television Measurement System corresponds to the international best practices on both establishment survey and TAM Panel and that it is comparable to similar TAMS in other countries.

However, the audit did also bring some serious issues to the fore that needs rectification.

Firstly, by design the current panel is imbalanced, with the over-sampling of DSTV and HD PVR households coupled with the under-sampling of the rural areas (mostly LSM 1-4) although this is corrected by the weighting. Everyone on the TAMS Council underestimated the impact of the unbundling of LSM 5 from the LSM 1-5 RIM Weight, causing a loss of LSM 5 audience to LSM 4. Users of the data had difficulty in understanding the effect of the newly aligned LSM groups and due to the under sample in LSM 1-4, instability in the LSM 1-4 audience was also experienced.

Secondly, the panel does not reflect the national profile of the TV viewing population closely enough. Although this is corrected by weighting, the efficiency of the RIM weighting is low but from the insights gained from the audit, this can be improved. The goal here would be to diminish the large range in weights in order to improve the weighting efficiency. This would work towards improving the audience fluctuations, which have been cause for concern amongst broadcasters and media buyers in particular.

Certain aspects of the panel such as the replacement of households that have been on the panel for more than 10 years will have to be addressed. The replacement of the Eurometers, which have been the backbone of the panel over many years, and the metering of multiple television sets in homes with more than one TV set were also raised as issues needing attention.

Other aspects, such as the downward trend in viewing, will need further investigation. The insights from the audit will also act as pointers in order to establish the reasons for this.

At the request of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the board has met with the TV broadcasters and the board has undertaken to address these shortcomings as speedily as possible and to take all corrective steps necessary to restore the integrity of the TAMS currency.

The board is in the process of engaging with the audit task team on its recommendations and proposed action plan. The audit report and action plan will be released to the wider industry for further consultation on Friday, 17 May 2013.

Due to the complexity of the measurement system, the testing and implementation of all the recommendations along with the further necessary investigations may take as long as a year to complete.

The panel is on the brink of the largest increase in its history in the number of households measured by TAMS. This increase will go a long way to help combat audience fragmentation and to meet other challenges, such as the measurement of time shifted viewing, the viewing of television on numerous other devices and platforms and provide a good framework for TV measurement after the rollout of DTT.