Telling stories through data analysis and providing insights

Telling stories through data analysis and providing insights


A team of seven people serves the South Africa sales teams in DStv Media Sales with data insights to support the sales, both pre and post.

Research analyst Bayi Mahlangu is part of the media insights and strategy team.

An early start

When she was still at university, Mahlangu fell in love with research after volunteering to help NGOs conduct their studies. She was a field worker, compiling questionnaires, conducting focus groups and sorting data.

Her advice to any youngster is to start work early (when they are still in high school or university, even if it’s non-paying) as it provides valuable experience in today’s tough job market.

She also recommends that this industry is targeted at individuals who love learning as you never stop. “If you are not the type of person who naturally is like a sponge, who likes to take in things and acquire new knowledge every day, you wouldn’t necessarily enjoy this environment,” she advises.

Mahlangu was so in love with the field that she turned down two jobs that were not research related. She began her career at MutiChoice as a content research intern, before working her way up the ladder, being appointed a research administrator and then a research analyst. She then moved to her current position at DMS.

She describes her role as “storytelling, giving insights and bringing life to the data that we work with day to day”.

Mahlangu’s work and that of her colleagues supports the account managers within the various sales teams at DMS. “I give them compelling insights as well as the numbers behind those insights with the ultimate goal to assist marketers deliver their messages to the desired audiences they aim to reach. Data is at the core of most decision making processes for most progressive companies and it’s no different in the media world,” she says.

“If anything, it’s further pronounced and is becoming progressively more stringent as the years go by. Brands need to account for every investment made and demonstrate the ROI to procurement officers. So we have to prove that they are making the right decision,” she adds.

“Data also gives our customers a voice, to say what they like, what they enjoy watching and when they want to watch it. It enables us pull those kinds of insights.”

While DMS has at its disposal a plethora of data points to draw from, from a viewership data perspective two data sets are primarily used:

  1. The BRC TAMS (TV Audience Measurement Survey), the industry currency data
  2. DStv-i panel (a proprietary MultiChoice panel used predominantly for content management purposes)

In addition to the above panels, as well as primary research conducted across the group, DMS also endeavours to bring the latest thinking and global trends into what they do and in 2017 DMS became an associate member of Thinkbox, the marketing body for UK TV broadcasters, which produces some of the most innovative TV research seen this century.  

On a daily basis, as a support team, Mahlangu and the rest of the team get many different types of requests. The end goal in mind is always guiding and advising the sales teams and clients with comprehensive analysis to make the best decisions for their objectives.

The team works across all channels that DMS represents including group-owned channels like Mzansi, M-Net and kykNET, as well as third party channels, 66 in total.

Trends in research

Asked what trends she has seen in the research space, Mahlangu points to two. Firstly, there’s an overload of data which she believes should be responded to by asking “how do we bring that data to life? How do we use this data?”

Secondly, faster turnaround times for insights are expected, which has led to much automation of the process.

However, Mahlangu believes that a combination of AI and humans is needed. “The storytelling is the human factor that is absolutely critical. We need automation to pull the data from the different data sets, thereby driving efficiency, but weaving the story and finding the insights, that’s where you need a human intervention …  The two work together, hand in hand.”

More and more is expected

Mahlangu lists the challenges of her work as follows:

  1. Time pressures, we are living in fast paced environment where speed is of the essence
  2. Added to that are the ever evolving consumer needs and we need to stay on top of our game in terms of knowing where to find our audiences, in what proportions and when
  3. Complexity of the world we operate in today re: the video entertainment business is beyond just TV
  4. Related to the above is insufficient hands to do the work that needs to be done, i.e., analysing across the various platforms viewers can be found on
  5. It is a learning hub and a constantly evolving environment. If you do not like change and do not have a teachable spirit, you will not like media research & strategy much!

Lofty ambitions

Mahlangu wants to build herself up as the best storyteller, as she believes the data is the centre of the conversation (the engine so to speak) but the insights (interpretation) that you extract out of it, are vital (the oil that keep the engine running).

She wants the industry to see her as someone who they can go to when they need rich, relevant, and more importantly, usable insights from data. She hopes this will translate into her becoming a young executive before the age of 35.


Michael Bratt is a multimedia journalist at Wag the Dog, publishers of The Media Online and The Media. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelBratt8 


Want to continue this conversation on The Media Online platforms? Comment on Twitter @MediaTMO or on our Facebook page. Send us your suggestions, comments, contributions or tip-offs via e-mail to glenda@wagthedog.co.za or michael@wagthedog.co.za




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