Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Canadian Ratings System - BBM

The ratings for the Fall are out in Canada this week and going over the markets it's interesting to note some of the differences in the Canadian BBM system and Arbitron in the states.

The larger markets have 4 reports a year based on a diary system (they call them ballots) and sample procedures similar to the diary systems in Arbitron. There are no monthly reports and the surveys periods are shorter - they actually have some months where you can give the staff a vacation.

There are plans for the People Meter (PPM) technology to start being used later in 08 in the bigger markets and phase it's way to the top markets.

They also release ALL the markets on the same day at the same time. You just download the whole country. The Fall (or S4) results came out last Monday so it was number crunching time on the trusty laptop in my office as we work with a number of Canadian stations. Overall a good book worth popping a Molson over at the end of the day.

Looking over the trends in sample return in nearly every market I tapped into the news was disturbing at best. The sample returns are suffering the same problems we see with Arbitron. The under 44 year olds are falling apart. BBM doesn't contact the panel on cell phones and with the growth of the cell only households or people just ignoring their land lines it's getting harder to turn in a sample in almost any of the 18-44 cells. In the last year you can see the samples fall to 1/2 of what they were just 18 months ago. It's almost like a plague has gone across Canada. The numbers are starting to wobble a lot and we are seeing the same wild swings and 'what the hell' results in the demos.

I can remember going to my first Auditorium Music Test in Canada. It was snowing in January, the roads were bad, yet the place was packed. We had to worry about too many people showing up as they over recruited and we hit the ATM for a few more bills to cover the overage. Most other tests I'd worked with for the last 18 years in the states always needed a few make-goods and we nervously counted the heads in the room always coming up short. Here in Canada they were eager to contribute their opinions.

Well it looks like those days may be in the past when you look at the BBM sample returns.

BBM needs to act soon. Just take a look south at the rather sudden awakening on sample/panel returns at Arbitron. Now forced to delay the PPM roll out and watch the stock and perhaps their credibility suffer. Just moving away from the ballots/diaries to a better data collection system will not be enough to compete with all the new media. We (the buyers and sellers) have to have faith in the currency (the ratings) and that MEANS A RELIABLE SAMPLE.

Hopefully BBM and the broadcasters throughout Canada will stand up and nip this before it gets to a damaging stage. In fact it may already be there.

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