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Beyond the hype: Understanding the process of viewership estimation by ‘Peoplemeter’ system

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Beyond the hype: Understanding the process of viewership estimation by  ‘Peoplemeter’ system

While much has been said by one and all on the lack of confidentiality of household panel composition, used to estimate viewership, little is understood about the process and methodology of peoplemeter system. This ignorance many a times leads to wrong interpretations. exchange4media digs deeper to understand the process and methodology. TAM, for instance, follows internationally accepted eight steps starting with ‘Television Establishment Survey’.


The process starts with conducting a Television Establishment Survey, aimed at understanding TV viewership universe. Based on this understanding and application of ‘Randomized Panel Selection’ a near perfect match of universe is achieved as ‘peoplemeter-panel’. The panel is trained, controlled and data collected every week. Which brings to Data validation, a rigorous and extensive three-tier process that involves the processing department, field department and the validation department working closely to ensure the robustness of the data.

Methodology in detail: Conducting a TVE – Television Establishment Survey

This consists of a large survey and is the baseline study for TAM. Typically consists of a large no. of face to face interviews to collect information on all parameters related to TV viewing. This information is used to understand the universe size e.g. how many C&S homes in a market use it as a framework for panel recruitment and later on to control the panel in terms of ensuring that the panel represents the universe. The TVE is conducted every six months and is concurrent with the National Readership Survey.

Panel Recruitment

The actual homes that will have the Peoplemeter installed are selected applying the ‘Randomized Panel Selection’ package that looks at matching the profile of a home with that of the universe, apply weights to each of these homes and iterate till a perfect match is found. TAM represents all markets upto the urban agglomeration limits (as defined by Census of India) and not only till the municipal limits to ensure that the panel is spread across the market under scrutiny.

Recruitment and Training of Panel Homes

The homes selected by the above process are revisited and invited to join the panel. After agreements such as the confidentiality agreement have been signed between the panel home and TAM, intensive training and counselling is given to the panel homes and data is used post stabilization.

Sampling and Weighting

The entire sample is split equally among the 4 SEC’s. Thus a sample of 100 would be split as 25 each in four ‘cells’ representing the four SEC’s. These four cells are then again split by access to C&S thus giving eight cells. This is further split by the four age groups and two sex groups. Thus totally there are 64 cells. Individuals belonging to each cell are weighted and in cases such as SEC A homes where there is a danger of actual numbers being very low, boosters are provided so that raw counts are available to be processed and at a later stage the appropriate downweighting of this figure is made.

TAM represents markets as either Metro or ‘Rest of State’. For e.g. Mumbai and Rest of Maharashtra – the latter data coming from five towns; three of these towns are those with a population of 5 lakh+ and two with a population of 1lakh+.

Panel control

The Panel is regularly checked for compliance. Essentially the panel has to represent the universe and hence TAM has panel control parameters to ensure that the panel is truly representative. For instance, one of the panel control parameters is whether there is more than one TV set in a home and hence in Delhi where ~11% of homes have more than one TV set, a proportionate no. of Panel Homes are selected with this profile.

The Process of Television Audience Measurement - A summary of the above points + Data RetrievalThe process starts with a television establishment survey to profile the viewership across various television and audience demographics. Having established the profile of the viewers that should be recruited in the panel for a complete and robust representation, the panel is then recruited and trained. The authenticity of the data is ensured by training and sample data from the panel home for a period of six months before the data is reported, the data related to time, viewership and programming is recorded in the peoplemeter for processing. Each week the data is collected in modules and sent to a central data processing center. This encrypted data is decoded and is sent to the central office in Mumbai for further validation and analysis.

Data Validation:

Data validation in TAM is a rigorous and extensive three-tier process that involves the processing department, field department and the validation department working closely to ensure the robustness of the data. The data from all the markets is received Monday onwards and is first validated by the processing department. The processing department also generates the connectivity of each channel in each market. This indicates the bands on which various cable operators are telecasting the channels across markets. This could have a direct impact on the availability and hence the viewership of the channels. The data thus generated is sent to the validation department which is in charge of scrutinizing the data at a micro level. The data for each week is compared with the trends across weeks to determine any aberrations. In the case that fluctuations are detected in viewership, the data is then checked at the individual home level by the field department to determine whether the viewership is genuine and due to certain programming. Thus, from Monday to Thursday, extensive checks are conducted to confirm the robustness of the data.

The Working Of The TAM Peoplemeter

The peoplemeter consists of a Set Monitoring Unit, a Decoder and a Home Meter Interface or the Remote Control. The decoder has two sensors that are connected to the tuner of the television set and this records the frequency of the channel that is being viewed. The decoder decodes this frequency. The set-monitoring unit records viewership data, programming data and time. This collective information is recorded in the modules and is sent to the data production center. The frequencies are then matched with the parallel home data – data that records the channels being relayed by the cable operator at periodic intervals on different frequencies in a particular area - to determine the channels on various frequencies. This data is validated, scrutinized and then reported.


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