The Successes and Challenges of Tracking Cable Network TV Channels in Pakistan
Advertising on in-house cable channels started in Pakistan in the late 90’s. It used a manual method, i.e. changing CD’s during mid movie or at the end of the movie, or through a switcher device that would pause the movie and revert back to it once the ad was run.
In the early 2000’s, software systems were brought in which would schedule advertisements during movies and play them automatically. Later on further developments in the technology allowed for the addition of channel logos, branding logos, advertisement scrolls and other advertising options in the visual perimeter of the screen. Nowadays all cable operators have different systems for advertisement on in-house channels but they operate on the same principle.
The need for tracking cable TV for commercials arose when mainly MNC’s started advertising on TV channels operated in-house by cable TV network companies and realized the high potential this sub-medium commanded. In 2012, Ozone Solution Pakistan, a UK based media monitoring and tracking company, started catering to this emerging tracking need in the industry, carrying out its business using a blend of foreign experience and local talent with a vision to partner with the Pakistani industry in meeting new challenges. Internationally, the company also caters to digital media and FM radio analysis.
Currently Ozone Solution has its tracking systems installed in fifteen major cities across Pakistan, covering eighty nine head-ends out of around one hundred and forty and providing tracking reports for more than three hundred and eighty five in-house cable channels for nine major cable networks. These include Worldcall, DiGi Media/Solo, CMG and Amaze that operate nationwide; Wateen and Kundanz that also function nationally minus Karachi; and Expy/HVC, FMG and Miraclus that operate in Karachi only. As yet, the company does not track Nayatel, the network functional in Islamabad and some other cities.
HOW IT ALL WORKS
In Pakistan, cable network companies like DiGi Media/Solo utilize equipment known as head-ends; devices that take transmission directly from the cable network companies, to distribute their transmission all over the city. For example, Solo’s entire transmission for around 60% areas of Karachi comes from a single head-end present at DHA. Head-ends are further connected to sub head-ends; pieces of equipment that further cater to areas at the neighborhood scale, for example the DHA head-end may be connected to a sub head-end present at SMCHS. From there, loop-holders (cable TV walas) distribute the transmission further to homes in SMCHS through wirings carried out from their neighborhood offices.
Ozone Solution Pakistan tracks the transmission by installing recording devices on head-end and sub head-end equipment of cable networks. Recordings are done around the clock; every day the data is physically transferred to company offices by the data collection team in SSD’s (hard disks) and uploaded to a 120 Terabyte central storage server that stores video data for up to three months.
After this, the data is audio matched; audio is tracked from the advertisements through their jingles and music, and video matched; tracked using company logo and scroll content. Next, the data is processed and advertisements are benchmarked; cut from the recordings, and segregated; saved as individual clips, and labeled for reports. A report is generated for the quality control department who look for any abnormalities present in the data. If errors are suspected, data is re-processed. A final advertisement tracking report is generated to be shared on an online portal where clients can access it.
NOT A FLAWLESS SYSTEM
There are various issues that result in advertisements not being run according to media plans, the first of them being human error. In every cable network, designated people, called schedulers, perform the task of assigning advertisements on in-house cable TV transmissions. If this does not get carried out, the ad is not run and the tracking reports reflect this error.
In a country like Pakistan where load-shedding is an everyday occurrence, a simple power outage at the wrong time can lead to delays in transmission recording while generators kick in. If this delay happens while an advertisement is scheduled, it does not get recorded. Sometimes maintenance on power lines or high winds knock down or loosen cables which leads to the transmission getting either cut off or severely garbled, which can’t be heard or recorded. This is tracked by the system and reflected in reporting.
Most of the tracking process is automated and generally free of errors, however errors do occur. The system can freeze during the recording process due to heavy load, causing loss of data. Load shedding causes stress on the power supply to the servers, and can cause processing slow-downs which result in freezing of the system. To make sure reports are accurate, quality control teams go through the data in the system conducting random checks on the footage and matching it with the report generated by the system. If errors are discovered they re-process the entire data to generate a more accurate report.
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT CABLE TRACKING
Generally, a number of advertisers believe that cable tracking provides data that includes the number of televisions the advertisement was displayed on while it was being aired or the number of viewers for a particular commercial.
In actuality, cable tracking is there to monitor and report how many times and when advertiser content was run by a cable network company.
Providing statistics for viewership at the household level is a completely different ball game altogether. It requires investment in a comprehensive infrastructure focusing completely on cable network audience measurement.
Tracking in-house cable TV channels has led advertisers to realize the potential such channels hold which in turn has increased budgets for cable network advertising.
According to Ozone Solution; cable network companies, advertisers and media buyers in the industry are gradually accepting the idea of cable tracking since such tracking solutions are not exactly economical, hence the industry is taking its time in realizing the benefits of investing in cable network tracking. Media buying agencies do refer their clients to Ozone Solution even if they are not subscribed to the data themselves. Yet, a number of advertisers have made this form of tracking an integral part of their campaign analysis.
Based on the inroads that cable network television tracking has made, one does see audience measurement surveys being carried out on such channels in the future. This will mark another major milestone in Pakistan’s television industry.
Information provided by Imran Ahmed Shaikh, Head of Operations, Ozone Solution Pakistan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org