Frequently Asked Questions


What is OzTAM?
OzTAM is the official source of television audience measurement (TAM), covering Australia’s five mainland metropolitan markets (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth) and nationally for subscription television. OzTAM owns and holds the copyright for the television audience data it delivers.

OzTAM TV ratings are the accepted metric by which Australian television is evaluated. The media industry uses OzTAM data to help understand viewer behaviour, assist in program development and advertising planning, and measure the performance of television programs, networks and advertising campaigns.

OzTAM captures all broadcast viewing through every TV set in panel households, whether the content is watched live or played back through the TV set within 28 days after the original broadcast (OzTAM's Time Shift viewing service).

In February 2016 OzTAM introduced its Video Player Measurement (VPM) Report, providing Australia's first official figures for viewing of internet-delivered TV content.

OzTAM, together with Regional TAM and Nielsen, is currently introducing Virtual Australia, or 'VOZ', which brings together broadcast viewing on TV sets and connected devices to provide all-screen, cross-platform planning and reporting for Australia's television industry.

Who owns OzTAM?
OzTAM is an independent company owned by Australia’s major commercial television broadcasters – the Seven Network, Nine Network and Network Ten – and has an independent, non-executive chairman.

The ABC and SBS television networks, Media Federation of Australia (MFA), Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) and Australian Subscription Television & Radio Association (ASTRA) have observer status at OzTAM board meetings.


What information does OzTAM provide?
OzTAM provides minute-by-minute in-home viewing estimates – 24 hours per day, seven days a week, 365 days each year – for more than 100 channels (free-to-air and subscription) across dozens of demographic variables.

OzTAM reports Live viewing as well as recorded television programs that are played back through the television set within 28 days of the original broadcast time (OzTAM's Time Shift viewing service).

In February 2016 OzTAM introduced its Video Player Measurement (VPM) Report, capturing viewing of internet-delivered TV content. 

For how long have OzTAM ratings included Time Shifted viewing?
Since the start of the 2010 ratings year, OzTAM ratings have included both ‘Live’ viewing and viewing of broadcast television content that played back through the television set within seven days of the original broadcast time (OzTAM's Time Shift viewing service). In 2016 OzTAM's Time Shift Viewing service was expanded to include 8-28 Day viewing as well. Devices that enable Time Shift viewing include PVRs, DVRs, VCRs or any device that is capable of playing back broadcast television content through the in-home TV set.

When did OzTAM begin reporting viewing of digital terrestrial (free-to-air) TV channels?
OzTAM has been measuring viewing to digital terrestrial TV (DTT) broadcasts since 2005 and, beginning in 2008 as stand-alone DTT channels were introduced, has progressively broken out ratings for these individual channels.

What is the difference between ‘Overnight’ and ‘Consolidated’ OzTAM data
Overnight data includes both viewing to the live (actual) broadcast and broadcast content that is recorded and played back by 2am on the same research day.

Consolidated 7 data incorporates ‘Live’ viewing and viewing of broadcast content that is played back through the TV set at normal speed within seven days of original broadcast. Consolidated 28 data includes 'Live' viewing and viewing played back through the TV set within 28 days of the broadcast.

Are Overnight ratings final figures?
No, because the exact telecast times are not confirmed until the afternoon following broadcast (Confirmed times), and Time Shift viewing still needs to be added.

If Overnight figures aren’t final, why does OzTAM publish them?
It is very useful for some subscribers to have an immediate picture of viewing behaviour – for example, they may have a campaign or program initiative that relies on people watching live or on the same day. Meanwhile, some program ratings benefit from people’s ability to record and watch in their own time. For example, some drama programs can gain a significant percentage of their total audiences from playback viewing in the weeks following the original broadcast.

Is it possible to measure the percentage of commercials being skipped during playback?
OzTAM measures and reports only standard speed (normal) playback (i.e., no ‘trick mode’ or fast-forwarded broadcast minutes are included in OzTAM ratings). For example, if a panel home plays back 25 minutes of a 30-minute program at normal speed, only those 25 minutes will be included in OzTAM viewing data.

If one program is being recorded while another is watched, which one is measured?
OzTAM measures and reports the actual viewing of recorded television content, not what is being recorded or has been recorded.

Does OzTAM measure commercial breaks?
OzTAM measures and reports minute-by-minute viewing – capturing audience viewing behaviour during programs, commercial and promotional breaks alike. Virtually all Australian media agencies subscribe to OzTAM Elemental (minute-by-minute) data and use that data in their post-analysis down to the individual spot level.

If the TV set is on but being used for some other purpose – say gaming or surfing the internet or watching a DVD – can OzTAM tell?
OzTAM can tell that the set is in use but at this stage does not collect or report details on non-broadcast viewing activity.

Does OzTAM measure out of home viewing?
OzTAM is an in-home viewing service. It measures and reports all viewing, both of household residents and their guests, in panel homes.

Does OzTAM measure TV viewing on devices other than the conventional TV?
Australian broadcasters continue to expand the platforms and devices by which they offer live streaming and catch-up TV services, as this matrix illustrates. To provide insight on the TV content Australians play on connected devices, OzTAM introduced its Video Player Measurement (VPM) Report in February 2016.

Does OzTAM measure viewing of IPTV channels on, for example, smart TVs or internet-enabled games consoles?
OzTAM TV ratings estimate viewing that is live or played back through the TV set within 28 days of the broadcast, provided the content viewed exactly matches broadcast material stored in OzTAM reference centres. See Time Shift Viewing for more details. OzTAM's Video Player Measurement (VPM) Report, launched in February 2016, measures the devices (e.g. tablets, smartphones, smart TVs, desktop and laptop computers and games consoles) playing live and catch up (on-demand) television content from participating broadcasters' online services.

Does OzTAM report ratings for Community Television?
Currently, OzTAM reports the share of viewing Community Television attracts but broadcast event information is not supplied to OzTAM allow for individual Community Television program ratings.

How far back is viewing data available?
Archived OzTAM TV viewing data is available from the start of the 2001 ratings year.


Every channel seems to choose their own parameters for reporting their ratings. What is the correct way?
There is no one ‘correct’ way to interpret OzTAM ratings. Our clients have diverse objectives which require many different criteria for evaluating television performance (examples include target demographic groups, time periods, audience statistics, etc). This is why OzTAM ratings data is highly detailed and offers a range of options for analysis so that OzTAM data subscribers can analyse and report ratings information to best meet their specific needs.

It is, however, very important that OzTAM data is footnoted and labelled correctly; provided that is the case, any subscriber can replicate a reported figure, creating transparency and a level field of analysis for all.

Some networks call prime time 6pm-midnight, others 6-10.30pm. Some channels use 6am to midnight in their ratings reports. What is correct?
There are lots of reasons that subscribers want to focus on different parts of the day. With minute-by-minute round the clock data, OzTAM ratings allow subscribers to analyse any time band they wish.

Some time bands are historical: 6pm-midnight was the traditional programming prime time, while 6am-midnight was the traditional way of looking at the entire day. Commercial TV networks and their clients often negotiate on the basis of Zone 1 (6-10.30pm) audiences.

What is ‘official’ Survey? Do ratings in the summer period count?
Over many years, the tradition of a 40-week 'official' ratings Survey period evolved. Many networks and their clients continue to negotiate on the basis of a 40-week Survey calendar. However, not all channels are driven by the 40-week Survey calendar, and of course advertisers continue to use television right through the year.

OzTAM provides minute-by-minute viewing data 24/7/365 so that clients may analyse any time band they wish, regardless of where it falls in the calendar. Every minute counts towards official OzTAM ratings, and OzTAM itself sets no official ratings survey period.

What is the difference between ‘Elemental’ and ‘Quarter Hour’ data?
Elemental data is viewing information derived from panel households and individual panel members ascribed to the minute. Quarter Hour data files contain average quarter hour audience estimates for standard demographic groups by channel. Quarter Hour files are created from OzTAM Elemental data that has already gone through Gold Standard processes.

OzTAM provides both Elemental data and Quarter Hour files because media planning (analysis) software systems use Elemental data, whereas buying (trading) software systems employ Quarter Hour files – an industry framework that has been in place for decades and is a legacy of the former diary system.


The ratings process
OzTAM TV ratings are viewing estimates drawn from actual viewing behaviour in a panel of homes that is representative of the wider population. (OzTAM's Video Player Measurement (VPM) reporting service uses a different methodology. See the VPM section for further details.)

Ensuring a representative sample
Households are recruited to OzTAM's TV panel via a large-scale
Establishment Survey that defines the population to be represented and its characteristics. The Establishment Survey is conducted to a high standard via telephone interviews throughout the year. The recruitment process and panel turnover are carefully managed and monitored to ensure the panel remains an accurate representation of the population for which OzTAM provides audience estimates.

In terms of size relative to the population represented, OzTAM's sample has long been among the world's largest. With OzTAM and Regional TAM's panels expanding by 50 per cent in 2017, Australia remains one of the world's largest per capita people metered markets. OzTAM samples the viewing behaviour of more than 10,000 people each day, making OzTAM TV ratings estimates even more robust and reliable as Australia's population grows and people spread their viewing across more channels.

Data Collection
Once a household has been recruited to the OzTAM panel, all viewing to all television sets in that home is monitored by a sophisticated metering system. All residents and guests register their presence using a remote control. Unitam also deploys state-of-the-art content matching technologies to identify programs that have been played back within 28 days from recordings of their original broadcast (As Live or Time Shift viewing).

Data Delivery and Reporting
Every night the data is retrieved automatically via modem telephone software (silent phone call) in a process known as ‘polling’. The production system performs the collection, processing, validation, weighting and final production of each household's data. Once the production processes have been completed, the television program information and ratings are integrated. All data undergoes rigorous quality control both electronically and manually. All results are released the following morning and the data is made available to our subscribers via a secure website.

See this one-page diagram on The People Meter System for an illustration of the ratings process.

How does OzTAM know that the information collected by the peoplemeters is correct?
OzTAM and its ratings service provider Nielsen TAM have rigorous and continual quality control procedures to ensure that panel members are following the correct procedures. For example, if a household records excessive viewing to one channel or no viewing at all, Nielsen TAM will contact that home to check that the behaviour is genuine.

What happens if a panel household or some members of the household are on holiday?
That household’s data continues to feature in the ratings.

What happens if a panel home gets new TV equipment?
An engineer goes to that home to ensure that viewing to the new equipment is captured and measured. While this is taking place, the panel home may be temporarily taken off the reporting panel until quality control checks are passed. (There are always sufficient households to prevent the panel dropping below the level required to maintain a statistically robust service).

Can I join the panel?
OzTAM's panel is anonymous. Panel households are recruited via a random digital dialling system. Every home in OzTAM’s coverage area has a chance of being selected to join the panel. Panel households meet specific demographic requirements to enable statistically robust reporting.

What is the Gold Standard?
The Gold Standard is OzTAM’s software accreditation system. It ensures that all clients using OzTAM ratings data achieve consistent results regardless of which third party software supplier they choose. The Gold Standard specifies the arithmetical procedures to deliver uniform calculations as well as the standard industry terms and language to use. Only Gold Standard accredited software may be used to analyse OzTAM data.

List of Gold Standard Third Party Software Suppliers who have achieved OzTAM Gold Standard Accreditation.


How do I access OzTAM data?
OzTAM is a subscription data service. Most subscribers receive OzTAM data through an annual subscription.

A selection of standard weekly viewing reports is available in the Reports section of our website. Ad hoc reports, which are tailored to specific client needs, can be purchased from OzTAM.

Why is there a charge for OzTAM data?
Television Audience Measurement systems are costly to establish and maintain. OzTAM retains Nielsen TAM, the world’s largest supplier of television audience measurement services, as its ratings service provider.

Do OzTAM’s shareholders pay for OzTAM data?
Yes. They are subscribers and have subscriber agreements just as all OzTAM subscribers do.

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