Turner questions new Latin American metered results

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MIAMI -- Turner International executives announced in a statement July 28 that the first wave of metered research gauging pan-regional television network viewership in Argentina and Mexico - of which it is a charter subscriber - is flawed and cannot produce "accurate and statistically valid ratings."

The company is questioning the "preliminary nature" of the research, and its reliance on outdated metering devices, weekly reporting periods and questionable network calibration, which all lead to "substantial" measurement fluctuations and margin of error, and ultimately make the effort suspect, says Susan Bruce, public relations director for the Atlanta-based network.

"All of these aren't huge but they all add up to a lack of reliability," says Bruce. "Our focus is to extend caution on the preliminary nature of the research data."

The opinion is not related to poor performance in the metering efforts by the network's flagship brand CNN and CNN en Espanol, Bruce insists. The networks earned share points of just 0.1 in Buenos Aires and 0.03 in Mexico City. A sister brand, Cartoon Network, pulled top and second spots in the two markets respectively, and TNT also performed well in each market.

The issue arises as regional programmers and agency media executives meet in Buenos Aires July 28 for Jornadas, the region's major television distribution convention.

Executives with the Television Association of Programmers Latin America have questioned Turner's complaints. It was TAPLA that commissioned Brazilian research firm Ibope and New York-based Audits & Surveys Worldwide to install people meters in 384 Buenos Aires homes and 407 in Mexico City.

Prior to releasing first stage data in June, all charter subscribers - including Turner - had three months of beta test data to review, says Teddy Reynolds, senior VP-Ibope International, New York.

Further, while admitting the margin of error on a network with as a minimal share as CNN's can make the numbers questionable, to correct it would call for increasing the sample size by "orders of magnitude," says Paul Donato, senior VP-media and communications research.

"The products that Ibope has developed and is marketing pan-regionally reflect what we have been told they wanted and needed," Reynolds says, adding that she will take a "more active role" informing subscribers of sampling errors and other limitations of the research. "A methodology manual is there," she adds, "but who reads the fine print?"

Copyright July 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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