"CAS - Golden opportunity to go beyond ratings!"

MUMBAI: The conditional access system (CAS) provides a golden opportunity for the media fraternity to go beyond ratings and industry constituents must join forces to relook at the traditional ways of conducting research. These views expressed by Optimum Media Solutions senior VP Amit Ray and media consultant Raj Nayak summed up the discussions during the session on "Beyond Ratings!" at The National CAS Media Summit 2003 organised by at Mumbai's Hyatt Regency Hotel on 4 July 2003.

TAM India CEO LV Krishnan, however, maintained that "life will go on" as the ratings will not change drastically unless a threshold level of adoption of set top boxes is reached. However, Media Reach Research VP Kapil Anand raised the pitch to supplement TAM ratings with concrete research from the cable control rooms. managing editor Thomas Abraham moderated the session that had panelists such as TAM India CEO LV Krishnan; Media Reach Research VP Kapil Anand; Researcher Prashant Sanwal; Media consultant Raj Nayak; Optimum Media Solutions senior VP Amit Ray.

Here, we present some excerpts from the discussions:

TAM India CEO LV Krishnan

With CAS, India is moving ahead in the direction that several developed countries are heading towards. However, it is important "to take life as it is and just live with it" in the post CAS scenario. 

In the post CAS scenario, rating agencies will incorporate some minor changes in the universe of C&S households to provide information on those households that invest in set top boxes to watch pay channels.

Tracking of the CAS homes will start from day one. However, the readings will not alter dramatically till an optimum level of adoption of set top boxes is reached. The representation will not change much unless penetration reaches a certain level.

At present, users of research don't look at things in isolation but buy packages involving multiple parameters - for instance SEC A household that has a washing machine or a car.

The time spent on channels will decrease as the number of channels increases or choice increases. It doesn't make sense for advertisers to invest in research that will focus on niche channels beyond a certain point as the increase, if there is one, will be marginal. More time has to be spent on studying impact on the fragmentation at the top end that reaches out to more people.

The latest World Audience Measurement (WAM) seminar organised by AC Nielsen (US) gives an inkling of the things to come. Some of the path breaking work done in the television rating business includes papers presented by senior global professional includes:

1) The ways to measure the effect of iTV (Interactive Television) and TiVo. TiVo is particularly interesting as it empowers viewers to watch a programme on one channel; record another programme on another channel that is being telecast simultaneously so that it can be watched at a later time. Studies on consumer behaviours during such a phenomenon gives interesting insights.

2) Need for better ways to measure 'Purple GRPs", "Red GRPs", "Blue GRPs", based on parameters such as loyalty, involvement, interactivity amongst others.

3) A search for measures to obtain the advertising ROI for brands is the need of the hour.These studies examine all the measurable variables and find out the role each of them has played in giving the advertiser better return on investment.

4) There is a requirement to study cross media campaigns by fusing Peoplemeter and readership research.

5) There is value in upgrading to a channel planning solution wherein one can compare one's media plan with several existing models that have been fed into the computer and then examine efficiency.

Media Reach Research VP Kapil Anand

The Indian market is already used to a certain form of CAS. In several regions outside of metros, CAS is enforced even now as cable TV depends on the type of television sets and the frequency on which channels are delivered. Several homes in these areas have black n white TV sets and the frequencies don't go beyond 450MHz.

The four metros represent six per cent of the total C&S homes (81 million in which urban is 27 million and rural is 13 million). In urban C&S homes, 63 per cent of the TV sets are colour and the rest of the sets are B&W; in rural C&S homes the figures are 32 per cent (colour) and 68 per cent (B&W). Several homes don't even get more than 11 channels.

There is a different cable TV mechanism that exists in peri urban areas that are on the outskirts of towns and cities. Most of the cable TV control rooms that had mushroomed in these areas in the early 1990s when channels were FTA have died a natural death as channels turned pay. At present, the control rooms in the towns or cities cater to anything between 25-45 villages on the outskirts. In fact, the control rooms in 435 towns cover a population of 3.4 million (in towns) and 2.7 million in the adjoining villages, says a recent study. The number of channels obtained by homes in towns and villages varies between eight to 25. The point remains that a few peoplemeters placed in some urban or rural areas cannot represent the entire universe of 27 million viewers in urban areas (or 45 million totally) properly.

In mid July Media Reach Research will unveil its OTG Update survey that will track 735 towns and cities by using data directly from 2,500 cable TV control rooms. The data will provide information based on parameters such as towns, class, city, state, SCR (socio cultural region), by B&W TV sets, number of frequency bands amongst others. The rating agency will collect frequency location data for each channel every month with the help of a frequency meter.

Post CAS, FTA channels will grow but the issue of their placement is critical. But how can 72 FTA channels fit in those homes that cannot afford to buy TV sets that can give them more than a dozen channels?

If several household cannot afford colour TV sets, how will they invest in a set top box?

The choice of a channel is linked to the choice of distribution.

Media researcher Prashant Sanwal

The post CAS scenario will be ruled by complexity, cut throat competition and constant change.

However, rating agencies need to offer holistic solutions rather than incomplete ones.

The rating agencies have to offer qualitative aspects and psychographic insights. For instance, things such as "why do certain people watch a certain programmes?"; "why do certain people invest in STBs?"; "since lower SECs are conscious about status and prestige, won't they invest in an STB earlier than the elite that has access to several forms of entertainment?" amongst others.

Rating agencies must understand that "watching is not involvement." There is an eternal issue of "solidarity versus power" - certain individuals in households take control of the remote at different times during the day; the other family members are forced to watch certain channels.

Rating agencies have to measure the co-relation between message effectiveness and placements of brand within programmes. After all, every surface message has meta-messages.

Advertisers cannot cut costs or investments in research when they seek so many answers.

Optimum Media Solutions senior VP Amit Ray

CAS provides an opportunity for the media fraternity to go beyond ratings.

Rating agencies or other institutions will have to install consumer panels. There is a need to test consumers and find out how many of them remember advertising and respond to them.

The heterogeneity of audiences is much more complex and it cannot be tackled by minimal amount of data; one needs to add supplements.

Media Expert Raj Nayak

Rating agencies must remember that OTG Update is related to connectivity and therefore to subscription. Ratings will always be important and cannot be ignored.

Advertising is linked to content and in India content is king and distribution is God. And both has to be given equal importance

There is a need to re-examine the traditional definitions of SEC A. In the current system, certain niche channels get ignored.

Industry constituents must join forces to look at research related issues.

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