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The Premier League and the Joy of Statistics

A strange thing is happening at ADTV. For the first time, we are able to actually count the number of our customers. We recently launched our Premier League pay-tv offering and can now, in real time, all sorts of data: the number of subscribers, their location, the number of decoders in each market, the number of calls to the call centre, the average call answer times etc. We can react instantly and alter allocations of resources and manpower as the situation changes on the ground. This is so refreshing.

To most people in developed markets, remarking about this may seem trivial. As broadcasters, we have been numbed by years of late viewership data (6 weeks late, at times), incompatible research methodologies and limited market information. We routinely make assumptions that drive million dollar investments and set sales targets based on a loose mix of statistics and black magic. The internet changes that a little, but until broadband penetration reaches saturation levels, the internet will not provide the answer.

I can see why it would frighten some people. Waking up every day to a precise sheet of data that lets you know if your programming or media allocation decisions from the night before were right would be a scary thing. But it would be challenging and it would most certainly lead to a better product and a better marketing plan.

  1. August 2, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Hi Karim,

    I read with interest your three latest posts. As I type these words, while listening to the BBC 4 news and after checking my blogroll, it is clear that the BlackBerry issue is now a story for both bloggers and mainstream news outlets. Let us agree that the whole matter could possibly have been handled with greater sensitivity.

    With regard to audience metrics, you refer to “a loose mix of statistics and black magic” to which channel operators in the UAE have been forced to resort in the past.

    When I arrived in the Sandlands in 2002 I was shocked to realize that ratings data was as good as non-existant and I wasted months trying to extrapolate from the statistics we had with regard to SMS traffic (one of the channels was basically financed by premium text messaging chat) some kind of viewership estimate.

    The problem will be, however, that when accurate data becomes a given, there will be channel operators obliged to face the reality that… ouch, nobody is watching!

    • August 2, 2010 at 11:38 am

      Hello Malcolm,

      It will be interesting to see how the BB issue plays out from a PR perspective.

      On accurate data, it is partly the fear of reality (and the potential impact on short term revenues) that is holding this project back. Eventually we will all realise that any initial negative impact on false perceptions will be compensated for by clarity in planning and programming that will improve everyone’s bottom line.


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