New JV for merged ratings service, TAM's LV Krishnan to head

Bowing to a long-standing demand from the industry that there should only be one rating system, market research agencies AC Nielsen's TAM Media Research and ORG MARG's INTAM today set in motion the process that will see the merger of their operations through a joint venture with a single currency by the middle of next year.

The transaction is expected to close by the end of this year. The new venture will combine local TV ratings data from TAM Media, a 50-50 joint venture between AC Nielsen and KMR/IMRB, with data from ORG-MARG, a VNU company, in a single service across India. The combined TV ratings service will be one of the world's largest to use advanced people meter technology, a joint press release states.

When contacted LV Krishnan, president TAM India, confirmed he would be heading the combined service.

Speaking to, Gautam Mitra, general manager, INTAM, clarified that the two organisations would not be merged. What would happen was that there would be a consolidation of the databases of the two bodies so that a single consolidated rating system would be operating rather than the current two.

Company officials said a combined service will benefit all clients - broadcasters, agencies and advertisers - because it will provide significant additional coverage of the Indian television market. Coverage will be expanded to all major states in India (15 states versus the current coverage of nine) and virtually all major metropolitan areas, under a plan that will be presented to the industry.

The new joint venture will also be the leading provider of advertising expenditure information in India, covering more than 90 per cent of the country's TV and press advertising spending, the release says.

Responding to worries in the industry that there could actually be a reduction in the total coverage as one system would be discontinued, Gautam Mitra, general manager, INTAM, denied any such decision had been made. He, however, admitted that a major issue that needed sorting out was how to introduce compatibility into two systems that are currently incompatible. INTAM uses picture matching technology for their people meters while TAM uses a frequency system.

Mitra added that places of coverage in the new dispensation would have to be thought through. When the people meter lists in Mumbai and Chennai were systematically leaked recently, an issue that had caused much heartburn was the selection of samples for the different socioeconomic categories. The charge was that too often there was a mismatch witnessed.

Queried as to whether this move was a prelude to the merger of the two companies, Krishnan was noncommittal. Official line notwithstanding, it does look distinctly possible that by the middle of next year, there will not only be one rating system, but one company as well.

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