TV ratings: Star, Zee, Viacom18, Network18 set to cut the cord on TAM Media this week

TV ratings: Star, Zee, Viacom18, Network18 set to cut the cord on TAM Media this week

MUMBAI:The floodgates have opened, it appears, on TAM Media Research, the agency that provides TV ratings in India. First the Sony Entertainment Television Network, and the Times TV Network informed it late last week that they were discontinuing their subscriptions. NDTV?s missive followed next, saying it too was opting out.

More major broadcasters are slated to write into TAM over the next two or three days saying they are cutting the cord with it. Letters have been prepared, saying they will stop using the data and not renewing their subscriptions. The week ahead obviously is not going to be easy for TAM Media CEO LV Krishnan.

Sources reveal that those who will be joining the ranks include: Star India, (which runs Star Plus, and another 30-odd channels), Viacom18 (Colors, MTV, VH1), Network18 (CNBC, IBN7, CNNIBN, IBN Lokmat) and Zee Entertainment Enterprises LTd which runs (Zee TV and more than 30 other channels). Others too are likely to rush for the exit that leads away from TAM?s data.

The broadcast networks which have decided to not to continue with TAM?s TV ratings service account for almost 70-75 per cent of the Rs 14,000 crore-odd annual Indian TV advertising spend. That?s a substantial chunk (read substantial clout). Close to about 600 channels - the long tail - fight for the remaining TV ad expenditure. And a large part of these sell their advertising inventory at bulk deals, being happy with whatever comes their way from advertisers. How their programmes are rating plays a very small part in their deal making with media agencies and advertisers.

 

By all indications, therefore, it seems that the grim reaper seems to be advancing towards TAM Media and the TV ratings service that has been like the gold standard, the barometer, the gauge, for the TV industry for more than a decade. An estimate is that its weekly services have been responsibile for a cumulative Rs 75,000 crore of ad spends since it was set up around 12 years ago.

TAM?s LV Krishnan: Broadcasters want him to find solutions to their TV ratings problems

While LV Krishnan told indiantelevision.com over the weekend that the ratings firm would continue measuring viewership, with funding from TAM?s owners ? Kantar Media and A.C. Nielsen, the road ahead looks set to get even more tortuous for the agency. Reason: with the major broadcasters backing out, an estimated Rs 15-20 crore of TAM?s revenue is likely to evaporate. TAM turned over an estimated Rs 60 crore last year.

The loss of that large piece of revenue is going to be a major blow to its bottom line. ?Agreed we will not be able to expand as we have been wanting to,? admits Krishnan ?I have been keeping the joint venture partners informed about these developments. We have other subscribers too who subscribe to our services, from the client?s side and from overseas.?

 

Sources reveal that what drove the nail in the TAM coffin was a recent meeting during the course of which private satellite channel executives gave Krishnan solutions to correct the anomalies that had crept in the ratings. One of the suggestions was to stop reporting on LC1 markets (very small markets with populations below 100,000.)

TAM had undertaken its expansion to provide LC1 coverage over the past few years at a hefty expense to add further depth to its TV ratings reportage.

For many years, the public broadcaster Prasar Bharti, has complained that its TV channel Doordarshan?s audiences consumption was not being monitored adequately. (It has even approached the Competition Commission of India to look deep into the TV ratings situation in India.) By adding LC1, TAM hoped some of the limitations in the ratings would be reduced as far as DD was concerned.

Additionally, private channels hoped that going into LC1 would give more accurate results as the TV viewership base had grown and adding more viewers from LC1 would only help their case.

But that did not happen: instead private channels saw a hefty reduction in their viewership in their respective genres. (Concomitantly, their irritation with the ratings started increasing.)

Hence, one suggestion given by the broadcasters at the meeting was that TAM stop LC1 town reportage.

But Krishnan said that could not happen.

?LVK is not getting it at all,? says a TV channel CEO. ?He is a nice guy. But this is about business. His clients have been telling him there is a problem with the ratings, get it sorted out, please get it sorted out. But no solutions are coming from him. He does not know that he could well be ticking down the demise of TAM by not giving us solutions.?

Says another TV channel CEO: ?The Indian broadcasting world has changed since TAM started metering TV homes to monitor programming consumption and the trends thereof. Viewing has changed, distribution to the home has changed. India is very complex and what works in another 100 countries need not work here. TAM needs to think anew, afresh and do things which are needed in a fragmented, digitised, very very diverse TV universe in India.?

What has perhaps encouraged broadcasters and the IBF to pull the plug on TAM is the fact that, after many years of deep sleep, the slothful-but-long-promised-knight-in-shining armour, the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), is finally rousing. A new CEO has been appointed in media veteran Partho Dasgupta to drive it. Then BARC has sent out the call requesting bidders all over the world to send in their proposals on what the new TV ratings system should be like, just last week.

?Broadcasters are really pressing on the accelerator very hard,? says a media observer. ?TAM served its purpose in an earlier era. Now they want BARC to be their TV ratings provider for this era.?

Expectations are that BARC should start churning out ratings by the second quarter of 2014. Until then, the advertisers and agencies would do well to be patient and do deals sensibly for TV advertising on other mutually agreed parameters, says a media veteran.

Does that mean that it is curtains for TAM as the bellwether for the industry, going forward?

It well may be. Unless, Nielsen, Kantar and Krishnan and his team at TAM can work some magic.

Also Read:

TAM TV ratings: IBF sends advisory to TV channels

Sony Entertainment Network & Times TV Network pull the plug on TAM; others to follow?

Competition Commission orders investigation on representation of Doordarshan in TAM

Trai seeks industry?s views on TV ratings system

NDTV sues TAM, Nielsen for manipulation of data

Why news broadcasters want TAM to defer ratings

Winds of change in India?s TV ratings land

IBF, AAAI, ISA to meet TAM on digitisation issues

News broadcasters ask govt to audit TAM

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