What is the OzTAM Ratings Panel?

If you’ve ever looked at articles talking about the latest TV ratings and wondered what soret of people are actually being surveyed to come up with those numbers, the answer might surprise you. Because just about anyone can be chosen to be invited participate in the ratings process. However, this isn’t a job you can apply for.

Membership of the OzTAM ratings panel is decided via a process that begins with the Establishment Survey. This is an extensive set of telephone interviews that are done throughout the year to keep the pool of potential ratings households filled. The survey is very much like market research calls you may have had out of the blue in the past, only in this case, the goal is to find a set of households that properly represents the populations of the areas where ratings are collected. That means people from different backgrounds socially and economically, with different education levels and jobs, and different TV viewing habits.

OzTAM Ratings Panel: The process

There are thousands of these phone interviews conducted each year, and while the pool of households chosen to participate in ratings collection is comparatively small, it stands as one of the largest in the world as a percentage of overall population, and was increased by over 50% in 2017 to reflect the country’s rapidly expanding population and the ever-increasing number of channels on offer.

In total, 5550 households make up the “Metro” pool from Australia’s five largest cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Another 3198 households are chosen to measure ratings in six regional areas stretching from remote Western Australia to the North of Queensland. And making sure pay TV viewers aren’t left out, there is a ratings panel of 2120 households chosen for their use of those services (largely Foxtel) which is drawn from all the households in the other surveys.

Once a household is chosen, sophisticated metering equipment known as UniTAM is installed in the home and the various members given a remote control to identify themselves with every time they sit down to watch TV. It’s a lot easier for panel members than the old days when everything was done on paper, but it still requires a level of commitment to doing it right – and that’s not necessarily for everyone. The longest a household can stay on the panel is four years, but there’s no obligation to stay that long – a household is free to leave at any time, and they’re replaced as needed from the latest pool of potential recruits.

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