So, I was catching up on my reading and one of the articles I came across last week talked about how the HK television industry is switching to a completely different, more unified ratings structure at the beginning of next year (January 2018). I've posted a link to the article below in case anyone wants to read the original Chinese version of it, since I don't plan on translating this particular article word for word like I usually would (mostly because of time constraints, as I've got a few other projects I need to work on). With that said though, I do recommend that those who are able to read Chinese (more specifically Cantonese, since most of HK01's articles are written in the local HK style and language) should read the article in its entirety, as there are some really good points and perspectives brought up in the article about the television wars that you probably won't find in the mainstream papers.
Instead of translating the whole thing, I decided to sum up / paraphrase only the part about the ratings system, since that's what this post that I'm writing is about:
- Starting in January of next year (2018), all 3 free-to-air TV stations (TVB, ViuTV, Fantastic TV) will be participating in a newly appointed 3rd party ratings survey.
- For the first time ever, the ratings calculations will take into account viewing data from mobile phones and tablets, which includes "re-watches" of the same program within a 7 day period.
- The ratings will be divided into 3 categories: TV Live (traditional TV platform such as Jade channel), OTT Live (Over-the-top streaming platform such as MyTV Super and set-top boxes), and OTT Re-watch (same platform as OTT Live except counting "re-watch" data)
- Changing to this system will hopefully result in a more fair, more objective, and more uniform comparison of the 3 free-to-air TV stations' ratings and thereby eliminate all the current issues that stem from each station calculating their own ratings.
- Unfortunately, the government-owned RTHK's TV channel(s) will not be included in this ratings survey
Link to original article:
So here's my two cents:
On the one hand, I feel it's a good thing that all the TV stations in HK will finally be using the same ratings system after decades of each station doing their own thing. Those who've followed my posts the past few years know that I don't give a rat's you-know-what about ratings (not going to rehash my viewpoint here – if you're interested, check out the other blog posts I've written in the past about the HK ratings system)….especially ratings in the HK television world, which have always had a reputation for being inaccurate and farcical due to each station's "habit" of calculating the ratings in whichever way they so please and then announcing those numbers to the world as though they were fact. This was an issue even back during the TVB vs ATV days -- I honestly can't tell you how many times I've laughed at the 2 stations' absurdity over the years "arguing" over their ratings numbers, with TVB always beating ATV to the chase in announcing "both" stations' ratings (not sure why TVB was calculating ATV's ratings but they always did even though ATV had their own 3rd party system that did it for them), followed by ATV always crying a river about TVB "deliberately" misrepresenting their numbers and ATV management insisting that it was "absolutely impossible" for their station to consistently receive only single digit ratings (in the Wong Ching era of ATV, the ratings was just one of the bajillion things that ATV management was constantly "in denial" about). Sure, now ATV is officially out of the picture, but that hasn't stopped all the "arguments" over the ratings, since there are now two new free-to-air TV stations in town to pick up where ATV left off (in the ratings argument, that is). Currently, each station still does their own thing when it comes to ratings and there is no consensus whatsoever on whose numbers are truly accurate (though most of HK – media, general population, etc. -- goes with TVB's ratings calculations because, hey, they are the biggest and longest running TV station in HK now that ATV is gone, plus they monopolize the TV industry anyway, so how dare anyone NOT use their ratings? Yeah, whatever…)
The other side of the coin of course is that this whole ratings system change is "too little, too late". Yes, it makes sense to incorporate the viewing numbers from other platforms given that's how majority of audiences watch TV nowadays and yes, it's a more accurate representation – I absolutely agree with this. However, the part I'm irked about is that the HK television industry should have made this change 5 to 10 years ago instead of waiting until now to do it. Honestly, what difference does it make now to have a more "accurate" set of ratings all coming from the same source? Does anyone really care? TVB certainly doesn't, since, in their eyes, they will always be "ratings king" and no one will ever be able to surpass them, no matter how hard they try….which of course makes it not surprising at all that TVB has chosen to essentially "give up on" the HK market and instead focus its sights on the Mainland. This brings me to the crux of my sentiment on why changing the ratings system is "too little, too late": Not sure how many people heard the news that came out a few days ago about TVB choosing to air Unlawful Justice Squad in Mainland China before airing in HK, which is being viewed as yet another indication of TVB not giving a crap about HK audiences (like all the backlash they’ve been getting the past few weeks about the decision to air Phoenix Rising in their golden timeslot is not enough). I guess getting hundreds of thousands of “hits” for their series on the internet from Mainland audiences is more important than the “measly” tens of thousands of HK audiences who actually have to go through the trouble of turning on the TV set…
Of course, it can be argued that the other 2 free-to-air TV stations – ViuTV and the just-launched Fantastic Television – do care about the ratings so changing the system will benefit them. Um, not really…we all know that both stations are way too new and there is no way for them to catch up to TVB anytime soon where ratings are concerned. Maybe 10 years down the road (if either station lasts that long), they might have a chance of "breaking even" with TVB, but by that time, it truly won't matter anymore because TVB will likely have given up the HK market completely by then, plus who knows if there will even be any more HK audiences around to be a part of the ratings count? As this article very aptly stated, the "trend" in HK when it comes to majority free-TV audience viewing habits is to either turn on the TV to watch TVB, or turn off the TV and watch nothing at all. If TVB's programs suck (which has been mostly the case for the past decade at least), most audiences in HK don't automatically turn to other free-TV channels even if the alternative exists – it has been this way for decades and, as the saying goes, it's hard to break old habits. Yea, I know it's weird and probably hard for people who didn't grow up with the HK television industry to accept, but it's very much a reality – watching TVB has become a "way of life" for most HK folks and unfortunately, as much as I hate to say it, this is never going to change unless the day comes when TVB no longer exists….so basically any talk about ratings is pointless and meaningless.