Specialty TV Services: Research firms welcome ‘challenge’

The proliferation of specialty tv services will not be a burden for researchers, say some of the top names in the field; instead the new channels represent for them a chance to develop new uses for their findings.David Tattle, group vice-president...

The proliferation of specialty tv services will not be a burden for researchers, say some of the top names in the field; instead the new channels represent for them a chance to develop new uses for their findings.

David Tattle, group vice-president at A.C. Nielsen Canada in Markham, Ont., says this round of licensing will not overload his company’s research capability, although it will mean extra processing on Nielsen’s mainframe computer.

Tattle says the 10 new services, of which seven will carry advertising, represent a larger customer base for Nielsen Canada and of course a ‘financial benefit.’

Also, Tattle says the licensing of new services this year is markedly different from the situation in 1989 when the federal broadcast regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, issued the first specialty licences.

Then, he says, Nielsen Canada was accustomed to dealing with regular tv broadcasters, and did not have the necessary research software in place to cope with the new demands.

Tattle says this time around, the software is available and the situation will be much easier.

‘I think it represents a tremendous research opportunity and excitement,’ he says.

‘When there were only three channels, [tv] wasn’t the most complex thing in the world to measure.

‘When we have channels upon channels in our households, and all kinds of other things coming down cable, it is going to be a research challenge, and it’s also going to be a tremendous opportunity.

Steve Ferley, marketing vice-president at PMB Print Measurement Bureau in Toronto, says the 10 new services will not mean much more work for his organization, which represents publishers, ad agencies and advertisers, nor is he worried about it.

Ferley says adding six or so lines to pmb’s survey questionnaire represents no additional difficulty for the research house.

He says what pmb does is provide descriptive, profiling data, ‘not measure heads.’

Tony Jarvis, president and chief executive officer of Jarvis Sherman & Jarvis, a Toronto-based advertising and marketing consultancy, does not believe the new specialty services will be much of a burden for researchers.

Jarvis, who was a member of the Worldwide Broadcast Audience Research Symposium committee in 1992 and is the managing director of Spot Quotation and Data Canada, says, instead, they will bring to the fore a number of issues.

He says one of them is the ‘immediate’ need for electronic measurement.

He says the new services could provide the electronic measurement opportunity Canadian broadcasters and the advertising industry need, since Canada ‘is behind Finland and Thailand in that area.’

However, Jarvis says, electronic data collection may pose a problem: how do media departments cope with it?

He says the usual reply is ‘new software.’

And Jarvis says a further fly in the research ointment is expense.

‘Everyone is already moaning about it,’ he says.

Like her colleagues, Janine Sumner, project director at BBM/ComQuest in Toronto, believes the new services will present more opportunities for researchers rather than be just more work.

Sumner says to take advantage of these new opportunities, BBM/ComQuest is launching a specialty service audience measurement service, probably this fall.

She says the real key to the new service, ‘the best part,’ is single source data.

The new measurement service will take all its information from individual respondents in telephone interviews lasting from five to 15 minutes.

Further, Sumner says the BBM/ComQuest service will use large sample sizes and continuous measurement.

According to BBM/ComQuest, large sample sizes mean detailed demographic profiles for each audience will be available, and continuous measurement means broadcasters can track how audiences develop.

Sumner says both are important because the smaller or niche audiences specialty services typically attract can be hard to measure using existing methodologies.

She says BBM/ComQuest has already had enquiries about its new measurement service from chum interests for two of its specialty services: MuchMusic, licensed in 1989, and Bravo!, given the federal okay in early June.

She says other interest in the new service has already been expressed by moviemax, the pay-tv movie channel based in Western Canada.

And there will likely be more interest in all research services.

The services licensed in June are more or less aiming for a Jan. 1, 1995 launch date.

And, in that year, of course, the crtc licensing merry-go-round starts up again.