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  • An introduction to Audience Research

    Christine Wilson Senior Director, Strategy & Planning Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

  • 1

    Audience Research: What is it good for?

    “Meaningless statistics were up one-point-five percent this month over last month”

  • 2

    But first, what is it? • Popular images of Audience Research most often

    relate to ratings research around TV and Radio • It’s actually broader than that, using many different

    techniques and looking at a wide variety of events and media

    • Definition of Audience Research: Using social science and market research techniques to study the traits of actual and potential audiences.

    • As technology changes research has adapted to include web, podcasting, telephone downloads, etc.

    • This presentation will deal mostly with TV and Radio

  • 3

    Now that I’ve put you asleep with a definition, on with the presentation!

    2 Themes:

    1) Overview of audience research 2) Careers in audience research


  • 5

    What types of questions can audience research answer?

    Four questions: – How many and what types of people are watching or

    listening? – Why do people watch or listen to the shows they do,

    and what kinds of shows do people want? – How can I create a show that people will come to? – How do I let potential viewers and listeners know

    about the shows I think they want to use?

  • 6

    How many and what types of people are watching?

    • This is generally answered by ratings research • Ratings are designed to track how programs are

    performing in terms of attracting different types of people

    • They are used by: – Network management to evaluate how their

    schedules are performing – Producers and programmers to judge what types

    of programming is attractive to viewers – Network sales and advertising agencies to buy

    and sell time

  • 7

    Ratings Research: Diaries vs. Meters

    Diary Measurement:

    • A self-administered system to track daily media usage

    • The respondent tracks daily radio or television habits in a diary, recording the station and program quarter hour by quarter hour

    • Results are mailed to the supplier for tabulation

    The diary format looks something like this:

  • 8

    Ratings Research: Diaries vs. Meters

    People Meters:

    • An electronic media monitoring system where minute-by-minute viewing behaviour is tracked.

    • A panel based system, with groups in Designated Market Areas across the country. Panelists are all volunteers.

    • The television set is measured for channel selection, and viewers report who is watching by a push button system. Next day results.

  • 9

    Who supplies the ratings? Television

    – In Canada, Nielsen Media Research provides people meter results on a national basis and for major markets—a national sample of about 3,500 homes

    – Nielsen is privately owned and sells the data to networks, local stations and advertisers

    – BBM surveys smaller local markets with diaries— two major sweeps per year

    – BBM is a cooperative made up of member broadcasters and advertising agencies

  • 10

    Who supplies the ratings? Radio

    – BBM supplies ratings based on diary research – Two major surveys per year – Most radio analysis done at the market level, except

    for CBC – CBC gets custom data to analyze at the national


  • 11

    More definitions!

    REACH: The total number of people who watched at least one minute, or listened for at least one-quarter hour of a program.

    AVERAGE MINUTE AUDIENCE/AVERAGE QUARTER HOUR AUDIENCE: The average number of people that are watching a program each minute throughout the broadcast. The average number of people listening to a program through each quarter hour of the broadcast.

    SHARE: The average audience expressed as a percentage of the number of people watching or listening at the time a program was broadcast.

    RATING: The average audience expressed as a percentage of the total population.

  • 12

    An illustration of the different audience measures.

    October 12 to October 18, 2000 - All Persons 2+





    AMA (000)

    Share %

    Men 18-49 Share



    Rating Points

    Hockey Night In Canada Game 2 Royal Canadian Air Farce CTV Sunday Night Movie CBC National News Another World Oprah Da Vinci's Inquest








    Sat. 7 PM

    Fri. 8 PM

    Sun. 9 PM

    Mon-Fri 10 PM

    Mon-Fri 2 PM

    Mon-Fri 4 PM

    Wed. 9 PM

    3 hrs

    30 min

    2 hrs

    30 min

    1 hr

    1 hr

    1 hr



















    12 9 9















    Source: CBC Research (Nielsen Media Research)

  • 13

    Ratings also allow more macro analysis to understand the audience environment

    Audience Share (%) - All Day (24 Hours)

    53.4 50.0 45.3 43.2 41.9

    22.0 18.9

    18.2 17.6 16.3

    24.6 31.2 36.5 39.2 41.8

    1996-97 1997-98 1998-99 1999-00 2000-01

    Specialty & Pay Channels

    75.4% 58.2%

    U.S. Conventional

    TV Stations

    Canadian Conventional

    TV Stations

    Source: CBC Research (Nielsen) * Excludes viewing to CBC Affiliates in their own time. September to March seasons.

  • 14

    Why do people watch or listen to the shows they do, and what kinds of shows do people want?

    • Ratings tell you who has historically watched or listened, but tells you nothing directly about motivation.

    • Various other methodologies help researchers figure out motivations and, therefore help programmers no how to more effectively produce programs appropriate to their audiences.

    – Surveys – Focus Groups – Program tests

  • 15

    Surveys: Telephone or mail questionnaires

    • Applications – measuring tastes, attitudes and motivations for using media – measuring how people react to current and proposed programs – Measuring related lifestyle phenomena

    • Strengths – Generalizations and standardized – Cost effective

    • Weaknesses – Best when you know what questions to ask – Can’t get deep or spontaneous answers to specific content – Not very flexible

  • 16

    Focus Groups—bring small groups of people in to respond to content through group discussion

    • Applications – Bring small groups into a facility to get their reactions to

    content or ideas – Exploring how people think about things – Getting reactions and ideas in people’s own words

    • Strengths – Flexible – Good for exploring – Good for gauging in depth or complex reactions and feelings

    • Weaknesses – Not easily generalized to a larger population – Results are often ambiguous – Content experienced in un-natural setting

  • 17

    Program Tests—mail out content and follow up with a survey

    Applications – Testing video or audio, either existing programs or pilots – Use a small sample of people (100-200) send them material to

    watch in their own homes – Have them answer questions over the phone

    Strengths – Allows research to get reaction to specific content from a large

    number of people – Content is experienced in natural setting

    Weaknesses – Isn’t as easily to generalize as survey results – Not as flexible or as in-depth as focus groups

  • 18

    Demographics vs. Segments

    • Traditionally, audience research has been organized around understanding different socio-demographic groups—such as age and gender

    • Those are the dimensions ratings capture and they are relatively straight forward to measure

    • A more contemporary approach is to develop audience segments based on lifestyle, attitudes, motivations and relationships to media

    • It is easier to think of audience and their tastes in media in those terms, rather than in terms of demographics—the connections are more obvious

    • e.g. An outward looking, active, reader is easier to program to than an 18-49 year old male

    • That being said, the groups or segments are more difficult to identify and to measure consistently

  • 19

    How can I create a show that audiences will come to?

    • Surveys, focus groups and program tests can all be used in helping develop programs as well as gauging reaction to existing ones—it is just ano