Television monitoring equipment has been installed in over 500 homes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in preparation for an October launch of the new ratings system, according to Abu Dhabi newspaper The National.

Tests begin on 10 July of ‘tview’ - the first TV audience measurement (TAM) system in the Middle East - which is reportedly costing UAE Dirhams70 million (US$19m) to establish and run over five years.

"We're up to 560 homes out of [a planned] 800," Christopher O'Hearn, project manager for Emirates Media Management Company is quoted as saying in The National.

"We're probably talking about the middle of Ramadan for the beta results," added Mr O'Hearn. "October is when we are targeting for a launch to subscribers."

An average of five people in each household are expected to use the set top box monitoring equipment, which will provide a representative snapshot of television viewing habits across the Emirates.

The National Media Council, Abu Dhabi Media, Dubai Media Incorporated, Sharjah Media Corporation, Etisalat, du and Kantar Media have all come on board to realise the Emirates Media Measurement Company.

“This project represents a milestone for the media industry in the UAE,” said the National Media Council when it was announced. “This will provide a base of information for decision making on advertising campaigns.”

A 2010 report by AT Kearney pointed out that while TV was the most important regional media for advertisers – accounting for half of all ad revenues and 90% of pan-Arab campaigns – it said: “the absence of reliable TV audience measurement systems is a barrier to growth, and is a key reason why per capita advertising spend in the Middle East is up to 30 times lower than in markets with such systems.”

The UAE is leading the way in the region in providing a measurable medium for TV advertisers and programmers alike; a route that Saudi Arabia now looks set to follow come September 2012.

Rebecca Hawkes | 07-07-2011