TAM equipped to measure ratings on any platform

MUMBAI: Tam is ready to measure telivision ratings on any delivery platform - direct-to-home (DTH), broadband or conditional access system (Cas).

Once a minimum penetration level is reached, all that remains is the signals that track viewing. Primarily, the analog signals received from the cable operator's end are changed into digital signals via the set-top-boxes (STB) on any of the above mentioned platforms and hence makes tracking possible.

Nielsen Media Research media technology group director John Hall explains, "The philosophy of measurement is to keep it as simple as possible where one meter technology can cover all platforms. That's the easiest in terms of maintenance and operations. But from a capability standpoint, what we actually deploy is based on the needs of the market place. In a broadband market, for example, there is interactivity and if the market demands that we report interactive behaviour, we have techniques to do that. That might be a different adaptation of our meter system than just a more simple approach of just channel data collection."

However, qualitatively tracking ratings for different platforms is more of an engineering in terms of sample, reporting and maintenance for accurately reporting the penetration of any particular platform, Hall says.

Adds Tam media research vice president operations Joydip Kapadia: "Penetration is an important part of measuring but as far as the technology is concerned, all pictures come on television in the form of digital images. So primarily it is a digital signal. Whether the platform is DTH or broadband or Cas, monitoring is the same. Ultimately the picture that comes on the screen is digital. We have the technology that monitors digital picture, what ever the platform is."

Tam is ready for any platform. Says Tam India CEO LV Krishnan, "Whether it is broadband or Cas, we are moving from an analog system to a digital environment. Our two big technological hubs are Florida and Australia. So if tomorrow, DTH falls into place, we're ready. If broadband comes in, we're equally ready. And if Cas falls into place, no problem. That's our entire focus."

Nielsen has wide reach in the sophisticated US market where they have the ability to measure Personal Video Recorders (PVR) and time shift viewing. Says Krishnan, "Our country is not yet familiar with the concept of PVRs but you never know when it can come here. Today PVRs have touched 15 per cent penetration in the US and we think India might start looking at it too in due time. So we want to be one step ahead and be prepared for whatever new technology that will come in."

Once STBs come in, the name of the game will not be analog signals anymore; it will be digital signals only. So keeping that in mind, would there be new peoplemeters? "We have technology available for all kinds of platforms. The basic peoplemeters remains the same," says Kapadia.

Adds Hall: "A small software change or an additional plug-in would be all that would be required."

Is Tam tracking the viewership of Zee's DTH service? "No, we are not tracking Zee's DTH as yet. That's because it is in a nascent stage and penetration needs to start happening. When it happens and we reach mass of about three per cent to five per cent of the total 85 million homes, we will start tracking it. It needs to have a good sampling size," says Krishnan.

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