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Soaps and speeches: TV viewing surveyed

Soaps and speeches: TV viewing surveyed

DESPITE attracting the lion's share of advertising revenues, television remains a

crapshoot. Not even broadcasters have a clue of who watches their programs or how

popular they are, with most programming and advertising decisions made by gut-instinct

and anecdotal evidence.

International Management and Investment Consultants (IMIC) plans to conduct a survey

over the next two months of Cambodia's swelling ranks of couch potatoes to find out

what programs are popular, who watches them and how much money viewers have.

Over the past few years, television ownership and advertising has skyrocketed, albeit

from a rather low base-line. According to IMIC, 86 percent of households in Phnom

Penh now have televisions and ad sales have grown from about $3.5m in 1995 to a projected

$16.5m in 1997.

"Television is the main advertising medium, because it is visual and easy to

understand," says general manager Paul Guymon. "Eighty percent of total

ad spending is on TV."

"The study was requested by agencies, media companies and the stations themselves.

We have been talking about it for a long time and we are finally doing it,"

he says. "We already have beliefs that the study will probably confirm."

The sample will consist of 200 households selected at random from grids in the capital.

Socio-economic data will first be collected and the households will change every

two weeks. "We see a problem with keeping people interested over the whole period,

so we will rotate them," says senior project manager Jared Hays. "What

we will do is make sure that the economic profiles remain the same. For example,

30 percent of the respondents will have incomes of less than $100 per month."

Rather than having a box on top of the television to monitor viewing habits, viewers

will be required to fill out diaries of when they watch television and what stations

they tune in to. "We will offer some sort of incentives - either cash or goods,"

say Hays. "Our staff will check every three days to ensure that the diaries

are being kept. If the are not, we will replace the household in the sample with

one with similar socio-economic characteristics."

One mystery the surveyors hope to clear up is what shows are popular with men and

women.

That men are the principal buyers of beer and cigarettes, the two top categories

advertised, is a given. What types of programs they are likely to watch is a matter

of speculation. Until now advertisers have operated on the assumption that women

prefer Thai soap operas and men like Chinese movies with a lot of fighting, while

how many people actually watch the televised speeches of the Prime Ministers and

other politicians is anyone's guess.

"Television advertising sales for beer companies is showing considerable growth,"

says Hays. He says that Tiger and Angkor brands spend the most. "Before they

were happy with whatever share they had, but now they are showing greater interest.

They have spent $1 million already this year."

After the initial survey, IMIC will consult with their subscribers to determine whether

the project will be on-going.

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