Ricardo Salinas Calls for Improvement in Ratings Systems


NEW YORK: Mexican media mogul Ricardo B. Salinas Pliego critiqued the ratings measurement industry during his session at the Paley Center’s International Council today, arguing that the current systems are “flawed.”

Salinas, the founder and chairman of Grupo Salinas, the parent company of Azteca, had particularly harsh words for the ratings system in Mexico. “We stopped using the ratings agency,” Salinas said in his discussion with Pat Mitchell, the president and CEO of the Paley Center for Media. “The methodology was so bad…what they were feeding us, it was garbage.” He added, “Our mistake in Mexico was to have a single indicator and trust it blindly.”

Other ratings measurements Azteca is using, Salinas said, are smartphone-based diaries and “low-cost boxes that use [TV] set meters” installed in 6,000 homes. “We’re thinking about face recognition. We have to work on other things. The information is so important for [making] good decisions.”

The problem, Salinas continued, is not just in Mexico. “Worldwide we have a problem in the ratings system. The required behavior is, tell me what you’re watching and tell me when you’re gone and apply this to men, women and children. It’s a false premise. People don’t behave like that. The whole issue of people meters and demographic measurement based on these boxes is flawed.”

Salinas went on to discuss the pro-social initiatives at Grupo Salinas and the importance of broadband connectivity in societies before returning to the ratings question and the need for good data in building schedules. “Anybody in the content-production business needs to understand what the audience is thinking and feeling.… We need to have a better feedback mechanism. If your feedback mechanism is wrong, the decisions you make are wrong. The mechanism was telling us we’d totally lost the top socio-economic demographic. It’s not true, they’re still there, but we’re not measuring them correctly. Who is more likely to register on the system? People who stay at home, who are very traditional, who don’t use other media. [Other people] still watch our product. Just in a different way.”

Salinas also discussed Azteca’s U.S. outlet, Azteca America. “This Hispanic audience in the U.S. is tremendously important. Not only for television—I gather for politicians also,” he quipped, referring to the role played by the Hispanic vote in the reelection of President Barack Obama. Univision, Salinas continued, has been the main beneficiary of the growth in the Latino demographic in America. “We need to work harder. We’ve been in the U.S. market with our network for more than ten years and the good news is we haven’t gone broke, the bad news is we haven’t made a big business.”

Securing terrestrial distribution, Salinas noted, has been one of the challenges in expanding Azteca America’s reach. In addition, “this Latino audience is a different audience. It’s not just Mexicans living over here. They have different points of view and they like different stuff. We’ve been off key in getting that stuff to them.”

Asked for an example, Salinas mentioned La Reina del Sur, a telenovela about a female drug trafficker that featured a lot of “violence and sex and drugs,” he said. “But it was a good show. Here [a lot of people] watched it. We passed on it. We had the opportunity to have it in Mexico and I decided to pass on it. Why? I don’t think our country needs any more of that. But, wrong programming decision.”