Due to rapid changes in the video viewing landscape, a rise in zero ratings, load shedding, and more significant challenges faced by technicians servicing the TV Audience Measurement Survey (TAMS) panel due to Covid-19, the Broadcast Research Council of South Africa (BRC) announced its intention to commission a more comprehensive TAMS audit in the beginning of the year (2021).
While the complete audit is still underway, the current interim report covers an environmental evaluation and a qualitative survey of aspects such as power supply and viewing on other platforms and devices and comprehensive analysis of the market landscape and its recent developments. The interim report reveals that several factors influence measured viewing performance, with four significant areas accounting for most of the variance.
Firstly, the changes in the composition of television households. As the market shifts to digital services such as DStv, OpenView, and DTT (Digital Terrestrial Television), the consumer’s channel selection expands. As a result, viewers spend less time viewing the main Free to Air (FTA) channels, resulting in a more fragmented audience. In addition, the reduction in analogue households has quickened in recent months and is expected to continue as the government plans to phase out analogue completely.
The abovementioned is followed by the ability of a channel to maintain or grow its share of broadcast TV within the platform. By May 2021, the SABC had dropped its analogue contribution to 52 per cent, with DStv, OpenView, and DTT contributing more. The proportion of total measured TV broadcast television is also a factor as more streaming media channels become available to South Africans.
Finally, the effect of load shedding/load reduction is more unpredictable and can result in considerable short-term dips in overall viewing. While the other elements analysed are more gradual and can be planned, load shedding and reduction are difficult to anticipate, especially weeks or months in advance. Therefore, although the weighting procedure provides some modifications for the lower samples, the impact on reporting samples is more significant than the impact on ratings.