The news that the programs of the Canarian production company Etiquette Azul (Etiazul) could have reached striking audience figures by benefiting from the introduction of false data referring to the “guests” has resonated in the Spanish audiovisual sector, both in the Canary Islands and in the Iberian Peninsula, but also among industry experts, who have not hesitated to assure this newspaper that they smelled something like this after spending several years studying how the number of viewers who watch each program in this country is measured.
The Canarian production company Etiazul admits to being the national leader in the increase in viewers due to fake audience
José Cortés Quesada, doctor in Audiovisual Communication from CEU San Pablo University and author of the thesis Television measurement in Spain: proposal for calculating the total hybrid audiencemaintains that, regarding the manipulation of audiometers, the meters installed in the homes that serve as a sample, “it is something that we have been hearing for many years by people within the audiovisual sector, but that nobody dares to say openly ”.
Quesada assures that the current system is “very manipulable”, structured around the will of the panelist, the person who holds the audiometer and who in theory cannot reveal that information, and that there are already advertisers exploring external consultancies that provide more reliable data apart from Kantar Media, the company responsible for measuring television audiences in Spain.
One of those merchants is Flowwhose technology audio-matching own (recognition of content through audio) is integrated into the mobile of a group of representative panelists of the population, “turning their smartphone into a kind of audiometer or people meter mobile that accompanies you everywhere”, says the company, thus scaring away the ghosts of counterfeiting.
In Quesada’s thesis, the expert indicates that the “guests” variant, introduced by Kantar Media in 2018, caused “misgivings” among the large audiovisual groups due to the possibility that “it could mean a big change in audience shares that would disrupt advertisers’ investments.
The Canarian production company Etiazul acknowledged being a national leader in this regard, making itself seen as “affected” and not benefiting from an increase of 100% and 92.7% in the measurement with and without “guests” of its program confessions Y Here the TV, respectively. According to Cortés’ work, Eduard Nafría, director of Insights and Business Development of Kantar Media, ensures that “the audience of the guests represents a volume of 5% of the total”, hence the rough edges that this value of Etiazul has raised among the Canarian production companies.
“With the guest button, many professionals from the big networks, such as Atresmedia and Mediaset, were a little unhappy because in the end it was very manipulable. If I have an audiometer at home and every day I want to say that I have 20 guests, who controls me? The answer is nobody. There may be as much corruption as we are used to seeing in other areas,” Cortés points out.
Despite these suspicions, no production company has wanted to question the model because, according to Cortés, “what Kantar says goes to church”. “They ensure that the system is what it is. That who is going to be the one ready to get out of it. They are not entirely happy with certain things, but many jobs depend on this and it would be necessary to see who would be willing to say: I am not believing the audiometers”, emphasizes the doctor in Audiovisual Communication.
In Quesada’s investigation, published in 2021, several incidents regarding the audimeters are detailed that resemble what recently happened on Canarian television.
In 2009, the Balearic Islands Journalists’ Union denounced that several workers of the regional network of the Balearic Islands had connected audiometers in their homes and that they manipulated the audience data. Sofres, at that time the company in charge of the measurement, investigated what happened, but according to Quesada’s thesis, the resolution of the case has not yet been clarified.
in 2018the newspaper Global Chronicle reeled off a report by Kantar Media in which it was stated that, of the 530 audimeters distributed throughout Catalonia, more than 80% were found in Catalan-speaking homes, which could “dope”, according to the article, the audiences of the regional channel TV3.
That same piece also indicates an event that is less curious. As reported Global Chronicleand taking into account the Kantar data, the Compartir of people in Castilla y León who saw the chimes of the new year in 2018 in the regional chain was 0%. Arancha Lázaro, executive of Kantar Media, said to Verne that this could be due to the fact that none of the 300 audiometers would have connected to that channel at the specific time and that “it is much more common than it seems”.
In 2011, the newspaper The world published a report in which he cited testimonials from panelists with whom he had contacted. Some striking statements are included in the text such as: “I put that one or two people are watching TV and I don’t change it all day”, “if I like the program, I put more people. If not, less” or “you don’t pay much attention to it. I never put on if there are guests at home”.
Cortés highlights in his doctoral thesis that 64.3% of the experts consulted affirm that, if there is no change in audience measurement, it is due to business interests. Teresa Barceló Ugarte, professor in the Department of Audiovisual Communication and Advertising at CEU San Pablo University, delves into this idea.
“There is a lot of secrecy and interest in continuing to maintain the form of audience measurement. Do we have to believe so faithfully that from 5,000 or so audimeters we are all represented? That is something that continues to work because large companies are interested in it”, reflects the expert, who is unable to explain why there seems to be so much “fear” around Kantar Media, a company “world leader in market research, research and analysis” that works in more than 10 countries, including the United States, France, Greece and the United Kingdom.
For his part, Alejandro Tapia Frade, professor in the area of Communication at the University of Cádiz, also considers that leaving everything to the will of the panelists is a mistake because “the audiometer has very important biases” and “people have his complexes and his conceptions of himself”, so there could be dissonances between what he consumes and what he ends up reporting to the device.
The sole administrator of Radio Televisión Canaria (RTVC), Francisco Moreno, after the information published by this medium, ratified before the Autonomous Parliament the existence of an investigation after detecting altered audiometers in the Archipelago. Kantar Media has already started the withdrawal of several of these devices in the Canary Islands that would have been presenting “strange behavior” to favor the Etiazul production company.