Quota debacle - new measurement system under review

The switch to a new measurement system for TV audience figures and similar data has turned out to be a debacle for Mediapulse. Customers doubt the figures that are central to them. Now experts are analyzing the way the measurements are made from the ground up.

The previous metering system, which was geared to analog television, had to be replaced with a contemporary new system. It also takes into account time-shifted television and TV consumption via the Internet. The changeover took place at the beginning of the year. A metering system is now being used that is already in use "in 50,000 households in 30 countries," as Mediapulse Chairman of the Board Marco de Stoppani told the media on Tuesday. In Switzerland, 2100 households are connected.
 
The problems emerged with the first data. The "assignment of the data to the individual stations led to inconsistencies," says Stoppani. Specifically, the measurements did not distinguish correctly when, for example, the same program was broadcast on Tele Züri and on Tele Bärn. The source of the error was discovered and corrected, and everything was recalculated in painstaking detail. But something still obviously didn't work: According to Stoppani, there were "in some cases considerable differences" between the data from 2012 and that from 2013. External experts were commissioned to analyze the new TV panel.

Loss of confidence

The figures collected by Mediapulse are enormously important for TV stations and their advertising clients. Among other things, this information is used to decide on advertising prices and whether to keep or cancel programs. The reactions of the customers were "much stronger than expected," as Stoppani put it. The publication of the first figures was announced for Tuesday - but that was out of the question for Mediapulse's customers. On Monday (yesterday), they demanded to wait until the result of the external expertise was available. Stoppani did not say who specifically demanded a waiver of publication. The demand had come "from various sources, verbally and in writing, and also from lawyers." Legal steps had not yet been initiated, but were in prospect.

Experts at work

Two internationally recognized experts have now been at work for two weeks. They have to assess whether the structure and operation of the Mediapulse panel meets international standards, as Mediapulse managing director Manuel Dähler explained. A third expert, who has not yet been appointed, will clarify whether the regional characteristics of small-scale Switzerland are appropriately represented. The two reports should be available in the first week of March. Customers will then have the opportunity to review them together with the experts. It should be the end of March before the reports are published, Stoppani said.
 
Until the expert reports are available, Stoppani says measurements will continue to be taken daily, and the data will be made available to customers. Whether everyone will comply with the instruction to keep the figures under wraps for the time being is questionable. Stoppani is "aware of the danger that the figures will go out after all." The Mediapulse Chairman was visibly embarrassed to appear before the media with the bad news. He called it "unpleasant and unpopular." With regard to the repeated postponement of publication dates in recent weeks, Stoppani admitted that the company had "acted and communicated in a suboptimal way". However, he expressed confidence that they were "now on the right track." (SDA)

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