"The rival networks should get together and reach agreement on a common audience measurement system."
ABS-CBN and GMA Network Inc. have for decades fiercely fought one another for the right to be called the Philippines’ No. 1 television network. The Filipino people have become used to reading press releases declaring that during a certain period GMA or ABS-CBN—the Kapuso and Kapamilya networks, respectively—captured a higher percentage of the nation’s television viewership than the rival network. One recent press release had ABS-CBN garnering a higher percentage—somewhere in the vicinity of 41 percent—of total national TV viewership than GMA, and a subsequent press release proclaimed that GMA had convincingly beaten ABS-CBN in the viewership ratings.
How are these periodic rival claims—mischievous observers call the survey reports praise releases—received by the television-viewing public? Is the public impressed? Do TV viewers regard the survey reports as Gospel truth?
The soundings that I have conducted about the viewership surveys indicates that Filipino TV viewers are not prepared to accept the survey results at face value. More to the point, they are skeptical about the survey findings. They are not ready to believe that during one period GMA had a higher viewership than ABS-CBN and that during another period ABS-CBN left GMA trailing far behind in the viewership tally.
The reason for this skepticism is not hard to find. Indeed, it is a no-brainer.
The reason is that the present rating system for Philippine television viewership lends itself to the charge of being self-serving. Each of the two networks has its own rating arrangement. ABS-CBN viewership rating is undertaken by Kantar Media; GMA has Nielsen TV Audience Measurement, which measures that network’s audience share with its NUTAM (National Urban Television Audience Measurement) system. It goes without saying that both Nielsen and Kantar are adamant that its system is far better—far more accurate—than the rival system.
With this situation, with GMA and ABS-CBN each commissioning its own audience measurement entity, how can the Filipino public avoid thinking that the contractor-client relationship produces a not-entirely-objective result? Has Kantar or Nielsen ever released results showing its client losing out in the viewership derby? And if either survey organization found that its client was indeed losing out, would that finding be released? No way. The competition between ABS-CBN and GMA is so fierce that such possibilities are unthinkable.
Yet, the televiewing public in this country has an interest in knowing—maybe even a right to know—which of the two networks is achieving a higher viewership in Metro Manila, Urban Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. And it is interested to know which of the two networks’ offerings are scoring higher viewership percentages.
TV viewership measurements must become credible and skepticism-free. The networks have an interest in such a change; after all, what is the point of their paying Kantar and Nielsen so much money if the televiewing pubic is not going to accept their audience measurement figures at face value?
I suggest that GMA and ABS-CBN of their own accord—without prodding from the regulatory authorities —get together and reach agreement on a common audience measurement system, one whose findings will be received by all parties without question. I find it difficult to accept that there is no research organization in this country that enjoys universal trust and respect. Needless to say, such industry change will require a large measure of statesmanship on the managements of ABS-CBN and GMA.
Until such a change comes about, the Filipino televiewing public will have to continue periodically receiving, from both networks, audience measurement data that it neither minds nor believes.