Africa, Second by Second

Gisela Seeley, Head of Return Path Data at TNS South Africa speaks to Brenda Wortley, Research & Strategy Director at DSTV Sales about how the Return Path Data service has been implemented in Africa, and what the key insights are that are being gained about audience viewing habits. 

Gisela: How has the Return Path Data service been implemented in Africa and what are the key insights that are being gained about audience viewing habits?

Brenda: The RPD service in our world is very much just in the DSTV space at this time. It’s pretty much groundbreaking for Africa because there is so little by way of measurement and audience understanding almost across the African continent besides South Africa. From our perspective, we’re looking at the major markets for our business and our first look at return path is household level data. It is proving incredibly insightful and useful to the business.

Gisela: Any initial insights about viewing habits from across Africa that have come through?

Brenda: What’s perhaps surprising is the overall desire for local content wherever you go. I think people see local programs as the key connection in viewing. So whether in certain markets there’s more of a news flavor versus sitcoms or dramas, it’s where they associate and obviously where people resonate the most.

The other overall influence is children. Kids in a home change the way the household views. Another insight we’ve seen across Africa is the differing levels of time availability that households have. In those markets where commuting time and traffic is a major problem, viewing time, particularly during the week, is very short. So they have very narrow peaks. And the viewing patterns change completely again over weekends where you have long viewing sessions and lots of sports watching and a completely different pattern. On Sundays many African countries enjoy religious content, so Sunday viewing is very different again.

Gisela: What is the nature of the evolutionary advance RPD represents in comparison to the traditional audience measurement that’s been conducted?

Brenda: From a company perspective, historically we had looked at some type of diary research and that obviously gave a point in time or a month in time type of research, whereas the huge benefit with return path is the continuous data that comes through. And you can see the impact of new channels or big events as they happen. That’s a real enhancement from the type of research the group had. And the very limited industry research that exists is very much victim to that - it’s survey based. It obviously has a lot of the recall issues and challenges where big channels come to the top of the pile and the channels that people think you want to hear them answer are the ones that do better. To get real live behavioral viewing data on a continuous basis is a real enhancement to understanding viewing.

Gisela: What has it told us about the nature and manner of television in the continent?

Brenda: It’s incredible to be able to look at how the same piece of content gets absorbed and taken up in every market. There’s obviously time zone differences, which a lot of countries are used to. But to put out the same content and see how each market takes it up is fascinating. In some markets it’s a huge success, in another it’s the tenth rated show - there are really the local nuances. So the more different we are the more similar we become in our understanding of viewing.

Gisela: What is the next important step for return path data in Africa?

Brenda: To take all of Africa to an individual level data. South Africa we do diaries, we take the set top box data, and produce it into what looks like individual data. The next level for the rest of the continent would be to roll out the same type of individual data view. We need to be continuously adapting and flexible in the way we deal with research in Africa, simple things like the definition of a household can be a challenge. So there are a number of challenges where the traditional approach to research needs to evolve and be more adaptive.

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