Opinion: Tempo by the numbers

POSTED: 10/15/12 3:49 PM

As our readers well know, today is not in favor of publishing letters without the writer’s name underneath it, but on occasion we make an exception to that rule, when we figure that the writer has something to say that is important enough to share. This is one of those cases: someone who has thought deeply about St. Maarten’s deal with the Tempo network and who has done some decent research on the issue. We present it here in unadulterated form:

Allow me a space in your newspaper to express some concerns I have based on some observations and research made over the past few weeks since St. Maarten and Tempo had announced that they would be collaborating with one another for a major event this November. From my findings, it appears to me that, at best, Tempo is a difficult media source to quantify in terms of its actual reach and exposure (never good for an advertising source) and at worst may actually so little viewers that any advertising dollars spent there result in no returns.

As reported through the media, the contribution of the St. Maarten government has been reported at $400,000. This is justified by the media exposure the island will receive through Tempo, and some visitor arrivals for the event in November.

In order to be as inductive as possible about this, before drawing any personal conclusions about the viability of Tempo as an advertising medium for St. Maarten, I tried to find information on how many people actually watch Tempo. According to its website, Tempo claims to broadcast daily to about 3 million viewers in the Caribbean, and about another 2 million in the US. How they get to that number is beyond me, and may very well not be scientific, as it would require years of constant tracking, across all the islands they broadcast, something I would assume Tempo does not have the means to carry out, if the networks themselves are unable. The number is a guesstimate at best.

See, for the Caribbean, it is already extremely difficult to gauge the success of networks, because the Caribbean does not have any empirical ratings data as the US and other major continents do (Nielsen ratings is the best known in the US for example, we’ll get back to them). A newspaper that sells an X amount of copies per day, can tell its advertisers “Hello Advertiser, we know for sure X number of people bought the paper, so there is a very good chance 25% of X number of people saw your ad!” This is not possible in the Caribbean TV networks unfortunately, making it one of the weakest forms of advertising the Caribbean region has to offer.

The best way to gauge the accuracy of Tempo’s claims would be to look at its distribution list and add up the population of those countries; we get 6.9 million people that live in the countries they broadcast in. Tempo claims that 3 million out of the 7 million people living there watch Tempo? Does Tempo really claim to have a penetration rate of over 55% amongst this population? Really? I wonder.

In any case, it is very important to understand that Tempo’s claim to broadcast on cable networks with 3 million people that can access the station doesn’t mean that they all actually view it. That would be like me saying “Hey, I have a video on YouTube, and it’s broadcasting to the over 500 million people that watch YouTube” while the video itself only had 40 views. Both claims would be equally false.

The other issue with the viewership is it says nothing about the engagement. We don’t know if viewers who watch Tempo just flip through the channel for a song or two and go about their business, or if they are legitimately engrossed into the station, absorbing advertisements etc. Heck, for all we know, no one watches Tempo. Again, lack of empirical, scientific facts about the viewership means that Mr. Morton could very well be pulling these stats out of thin air.

It is important to note that Tempo’s distribution list includes large countries like Costa Rica. However, the station that broadcasts Tempo there is Talamanca, a small pueblito in Cost Rica with a population of about 32 thousand people. Also, Haiti with its population of 10 million should be excluded from these numbers for various reasons, including the fact that their cable network was destroyed in the earthquake and only recently rebuilt in May of 2012. One can assume that the hardship people face there, buying a TV, cable package and watching Tempo isn’t quite high on their list of priorities.

As for the US? Yes, they do broadcast on Cablevision, which has a total of 3 million subscribers. So let’s say that equates to 10 million viewers. Again, do you really think that 20% (2 million people) of the people in New York tristate areas watch Tempo? Highly doubtful. Cablevision has over 535 TV channels, how many people choose Tempo? It is likely that not many make this choice.

If Tempo is confident in its claims, it could prove doubters wrong by simply applying to have Nielsen ratings cover their stats and publish their ratings, but Tempo has yet to do this, I wonder why? Are they concerned that if figures show a 0-1% rating that their venture is doomed?  The ball is in their court in this regard but until then we can only assume that the exposure advertisers receive on Tempo in the US is negligible at best.

Other than advertising, Tempo claims visitor expenditure  will make up for the investment. Well,  if Tempo is to attract people to the island whose expenditure would result in $400,000 in revenue, it would mean that at a tax rate of 10%, St. Maarten would have to make $4 million in visitors’ expenditure, or about 4000 people coming to the island and spending $1000 each. Is this event going to attract that many people over the course of the year? Again, highly doubtful, but we will see.

The worst part about this venture is the lack of continuity and local identity of this event. It is not something that belongs to St. Maarten, it belongs to Tempo. St. Maarten is supposed to invest and hope it receives returns in the form of tourism dollars. Meanwhile, St. Maarten has its own premier events, like Carnival and the Heineken Regatta, that draw thousands of visitors to our island each year. Even the Video X Gaming event that was a major success this year and that is going to be held again next year has quantifiable information about its viewership, gives year round exposure to the island and is a new type of medium for attracting tourists and will certainly grow each year.

And I reiterate again, it belongs to St. Maarten. This Tempo event will come, it will go, and we’ll all just have to wonder whether or not it was worth it, rather than knowing for sure that it was. In contrast, St. Maarten never would have such buyer’s remorse when it invests in Carnival, the Regatta and Video X Gaming.

We can go on and on with Tempo, such as their mediocre web traffic, low social media presence (a very small number of Facebook fans and followers for a medium that has been around this long) and their nearly dormant YouTube page (a music station with poor YouTube stats???). While I don’t think we really have to riot about this, and demand the plug be pulled from the plan, what I do hope is that in the future government evaluates the benefits more concretely. If I could do this on a Saturday afternoon, certainly their staff could have done this research as well. In the end, the conclusion would have been the same: When you invest in an ad on Tempo, you are investing into a completely unproven medium, with no idea as to how many people actually see your ad, and what your returns will be.


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