Given the spectacular failure of polling organisations to correctly predict the outcome of the British EU referendum, how much trust can we place in the findings of market research companies covering the TV industry?
A profound question, perhaps, and one I find myself asking on the morning it has been announced that Britain has decided to leave the EU. Exit polls, released just after the last votes were cast, pointed to a ‘Remain’ victory, as indeed had most predictions, save for a brief period in the final couple of weeks before the referendum. However, it soon became clear they were wide of the mark, with the pollsters, as in the UK’s last general election in 2015, getting it spectacularly wrong.
Looking to the TV industry, it is interesting to see that audience research is now being viewed in the same light as broadcasting in general in Russia. In double quick time, the State Duma has passed a law that will effectively spell the end of TNS in the country, after providing audience research for almost two decades, unless the company finds a new majority (80%) local partner/s.
Whether this will actually improve the reliability of audience research, so vital for the work of broadcasters and advertisers, remains to be seen.
More generally, the global TV industry is served by a multitude, and indeed growing number, of research companies providing it with the latest information on market trends and forecasts. The data they produce is not only interesting but also undoubtedly influential in shaping the strategy of key industry players in what is a time of rapid change.
If there is a lesson to be learned from the failure of the UK’s polling organisations, it is that the most accurate predictions can probably be made by going out and speaking to the wider public, rather than just focusing on clearly defined, and in some instances self-selecting, study groups.