Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Oops, Sorry Mr. Commissioner, I Meant to Say...

Michael Geist summed it up: asking the CRTC for mandatory subscriber fees from cable and satellite customers is the last chance for failed broadcasting business models.  Personally, I think one or two of the new applicants can make a case, notably Starlight which is at least offering to make decades of  Canadian movies more widely available and, given Canadians' love of movies, would probably draw an audience. The results from CMRI's annual Media Trends Survey confirm this.

Some of those who appeared before the CRTC the first day of the hearing could be mistaken for a Monty Python skit and some were beyond bizarre, especially those tossing around survey research showing the vast majority of Canadians don't seem to want their service.  The misuse of research has been described here as 'factortion' and we were treated to an abundance of it at the CRTC hearing on day one. The first prize for research factortion at the hearing for mandatory subscriber fees goes to the channel called Dolobox, a channel meant to bring Canadian youth back to TV.  The channel's rationale, and that of another youth-oriented channel, seems to be  based on the assumption that young people have abandoned TV.  CRTC commissioners seem to accept this as a given.

Dolobox engaged Nordicity, who in turn engaged Strategic Inc., to undertake research and analysis to support their case.  Their analysis of ratings data concluded that TV viewing among young people is down over the past three years by as much as 10%.  The key evidence put forward is depicted in the chart below and can be found on the CRTC's web site:

The problem is that the BBM data examined by Strategic Inc. are for English Canada only. This is not mentioned anywhere in the report. Had the BBM data for Francophone Quebec been included, it would have shown that at least one young group, 25-34 years, increased their TV viewing in the three years.  In addition, not all the data quite match published BBM data for English Canada.  Every number matches with published data except for Teens 12-17 in the final year.  Strategic Inc. shows teen viewing flat in year three, while BBM data shows that teen viewing increased slightly in the final year. 

TVB Canada has analyzed viewing trends for the past eight years.  Their analysis of BBM data shows that when the PPM was introduced in 2009-10, it reported an increase of 4-5 hrs/week in viewing by younger groups.  Weekly hours have been in the range of 22-24 hours the past three years.  In 2009-10 levels were slightly higher but this was likely related to the fact that that year BBM did not include cell-only persons in its sample, many of whom are younger people.  BBM also experienced problems with getting younger respondents to co-operate in year one of the PPM and has made methodological improvements since.  Comparisons with that first year should be made with caution as a result.   

Nonetheless, had Strategic Inc. examined viewing by all younger groups, English as well as French, as the report implies it did, it would have found a very small decline in viewing, one which, if statistically significant, could be explained by the simple fact that the 2010 Vancouver Olympics were included in year one of the analysis.  The 2012 London games were excluded in year three of the Strategic Inc. analysis; the Olympics normally attract younger audiences and their inclusion/exclusion accounts for most if not all the "decline."   Case closed.

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