Channel Repertoire of 
Mexican Television Viewers

Television viewing data are typically collected by panels of households/persons whose tuning/viewing behavior are monitored by electronic meters.  Such data are reported in the form of ratings (see example), which are the percentages of households/persons who are tuning/viewing to specific channels or programs during certain time periods.  Ratings data are important in the transaction of television advertising, and are often referred to as the 'currency' of buying/selling.

The choices that people make with respect to television viewing are complicated processes.  Ratings data simply give the net outcome, and do not necessarily reflect the other complexities.  This particular article is the first of what we hope is a series of articles that will examine the complex behaviors that lie underneath ratings data.

The question that we will deal with is a simple one: how many channels does a person typically watch each day?  Today, all television sets are capable minimally of receiving VHF signals, which can be as many as seven in any location; many television sets can also receive UHF signals.  With multichannel television (such as cable, microwave and satellite), the number of receivable channels can exceed one hundred.  But just because hundreds of options are available does not mean that people will use all of them every day.  If not all, then how many?

To answer our question, we will refer to the television people meter data from the IBOPE people meter panel in Mexico.  When we went through the data, we found that the average number of channels watched per person age 4 or over is 3.11 per day.  A person is said to have watched a channel if he/she spends more than one minute per day watching that channel.  The chart below is the frequency distribution of the number of television channels watched daily.  The highest number of channels watched in a day was 43.

At a time when people have hundreds of television channels to watch from, this number 3.11 seems to be a remarkably low number.  One reason is that not all persons get to watch television on a typical day.  In fact, when we looked at this data, 28.9% of the people did not watch any television on a typical data.  Now if we restrict our question to only those people who watched some television on a typical day, the number of channels watched becomes 4.39 per day.

Are there any differences by demographic characteristics?  According to the following table, that does not seem to be the case (among persons who watched television on a typical day):

Demographic Characteristic Number of channels watched per day

    4 to 12 years old
    13 to 18 years old
     19 to 29 years old
     30 to 44 years old
     45 to 54 years old
     55+ years old


The more important factor is the presence of pay television.  By definition, a non-pay television home has access only to broadcast television signals, whereas the pay television home can have more than a hundred television available.

Pay television status Number of channels watched per day

Within the non-pay television homes, the viewing goes to the broadcast stations.  Within the pay  television homes, the number of broadcast stations watched is 3.31 per day.  That would make it more than half of the total of 5.71 channels.

In the following references, this subject has been also treated.  We should note that there are some fundamental differences in the methodologies of the data sources: the information here is derived from electronic metering, whereas the other sources are based upon recall during personal interviews.  Therefore, the information here is much more precise and reliable.

It would seem extremely wasteful that when people would only use a small number out of the plethora of choices offered to them.  The situation is not as simple as that, for different people have different repertoires of their list of preferred channels.  We will deal with more of these issues in future articles.


(posted by Roland Soong, 4/13/2001)

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