'You cannot build a sample on psychographics' : LV Krishnan - TAM India CEO

Media research agency Tam is in an expansion mode. Recently, it increased the number of peoplemeters from 4800 to 6917. And as direct-to-home (DTH) and conditional access system (Cas) took root, it also came out with the Elite Panel. The aim: to give broadCasters and media planners an idea of what the cr?me de la cr?me consume.'s Ashwin Pinto caught up with Tam India CEO LV Krishnan to find out how the agency is gearing up to meet the challenges that new distribution technologies are throwing up.


With conditional access system (Cas) and direct-to-home (DTH) taking root, what is Tam's strategy going to be?

We expected digitisation to happen sooner or later. We have been getting ready for it since a year. In April 2006 we released our first study under the Blinx series where we had the first DTH penetration data coming out. We also did a multi-city study on what was happening on Cas. We looked at the international availability of technology that could be used to measure these two platforms.

We began work on the digital peoplemeter which we call the TVM5. Today all the six metros are completely aligned to the TVM5 digital peoplemeter. The peoplemeters are technologically hybrid. This was stage one done last year. We expanded the panel two weeks back and introduced the Elite Panel. After that, quite a large number of homes in the Elite Panel have moved onto DTH. In the regular panel a significant amount of homes are converted to Cas.

This is clubbed with the C&S (cable & satellite) data and sent to the industry for usage. While this happens and the market moves from analogue to digital, there is growth in DTH and Cas for both panels. To validate this we are doing a regular penetration study. The data for this month will be out shortly. We will do studies in February and March to find out DTH and Cas penetration in the notified areas. It will be matched with our Elite Panel penetration also to see if it matches with those kinds of homes. Then data will go out to the user.

Will Cas or DTH prevail and why?

It is difficult to say which one will succeed. Each has advantages. Finally it is the service ability that counts. The demand is there. Pricing is important.

Then there is the marketing activities done. Feedback is that demand for set top boxes is rising dramatically. But the service ability is the need of the hour. This is preventing more penetration.

Tam has also increased the number of Peoplemeters and coverage area. Could you talk about this?

We have been working with the joint industry body (JIB) for the last year and a half to look at the next step. Hence the decision to go to 7000 peoplemeters.

Three things prompted the expansion. Firstly the universe has changed since the last expansion that happened in 2002 - 2003. The number of C&S homes has increased. New towns have been added on different strata of the population. The second reason is the sheer amount of fragmentation that is happening. With the number of channels available, TV viewing has become more fragmented. To look at data from specific segments of the population you need to go deeper. The Hindi speaking markets which is the North and West is where the bulk of the new metering has been done.

In the South, the time spent on viewing is higher in proportion to the number of TV homes present. More samples have been added there. Then we wanted to plan for the future with new platforms coming in. You will see further fragmentation with DTH and Cas arriving. IPTV is also soon to launch. We wanted to be ready for this change.

How much has Tam invested and what have the challenges been?

The expansion has taken 10 months of work. We started last February. We moved from 73 towns to 151. We brought in the digital peoplemeters. At the same time we needed to ensure that the homes are counseled to deliver quality research. It has been great working along with the industry. Over Rs 250 million has gone into the expansion.

Why did it take it so much time to expand?

We touched 4800 in 2003. In 2004 there was no establishment study. We had to wait for 2005 to see the kind of growth rates that have happened. When we got NRS 2005 there was also census data for 2001 which came out in 2005. That data came to us in the second half of 2005.

'We are examining the possibility of expanding the Elite Panel to other markets like Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata'

How do you choose the homes and how is user compliance ensured?

The homes are chosen on the basis of key control variables divided into primary and secondary variables. The former are socio economic classes, the ability to watch C&S or terrestrial television. Number of home members is another variable. Apart from that, secondary variables include ratio of colour to black and white TV sets. In 2007 we have added a new variable, which is the presence of kids. A metric is used to gauge the compliance of a home to the peoplemeter which is button pushing. So we do surprise checks with these homes. Once we are sure that they are stable we add them to the reporting data.

Rival ratings service aMap talks about the importance of pyschographic profiling and that 25+ SEC A is not enough if you want to know what for instance an executive consumes. Your views on this?

You can include additional variables. However a panel needs to be put on strong foundation stones. They have to be stable over a period of time. Then you look at SEC, cable and satellite or terrestrial. Pyschographic variables are ever changing in nature. You cannot build a sample on psychographics. If you list pyschographic variables, which could be 100, you diminish your sample to miniature levels.

You cannot have attitudinal factors being linked to viewing behaviour patterns. Attitudinal factors can be included in one off studies. But to expect a panel to give you solutions for every little thing will not be possible. A panel is supposed to give continuous behaviour changes so that you can do projections for the future based on past behaviour.

In a dynamic market you have a cable operator changing the channel line-up, marketing etc. If you can pick up these changes and tie it to the numbers you can make better sense of the data rather than try to report things based on things that are affected by changing attitudes. It is important to have data that gives a clear picture of the changing marketplace rather than have a variable that is there for the sake of it.

How has the channel standings been affected by the expansion of the panel?

In general the expanded panel has come in with Cas implementation. Pay channels have taken a hit in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. But the figures will improve as homes move to Cas or DTH. Distribution is key in the towns. Also when you geographically expand your ratings presence you see a difference in terms of power cuts. This environmental factor also affects channel shares. A strong distribution of channels in smaller towns will mean that share is not affected.

Regional channels share has gone up. So has news. The free to air channels are also faring better. The mainline channels continue to stay strong. Certainly there is more fragmentation. Music and the English entertainment channels are stagnating. This has to do with content along with marketing. Colour TV sets have jumped to 70 per cent in the C&S homes. Remote control penetration has also grown. There is faster surfing and more sampling. The ad rate viewership is slipping vis-?-vis programme viewership. There is a 20 per cent difference. News has eaten into the share of GEC.

What findings has the Elite Panel thrown up?

The elite segment spends a limited amount of time on television. It is around an hour and a half each day compared to two hours and 10 minutes for the general panel. For those who own a DVD player it goes down further to around an hour and 10 minutes. The more the leisure opportunities present, the less he/she watches television. They are extremely choosy. What is interesting is that although the main language of 45 per cent of the Elite Panel is English, the time spent on watching Hindi content is more watched. English entertainment needs to touch the heart of the consumer better.

It is clear that the members of the Elite Panel do not approve of the quality of content on the English entertainment channels, which is one reason why they are not spending much time watching television. They are basically surfing through the English channels and then going back to the Hindi shows. The English channels need to understand what the viewer requires. The elite segment represents an opportunity.

Can you highlight any other findings that emerged from the Elite Panel?

Firstly we need to segment general entertainment into two parts. One is soaps and the other is reality shows. The former is consumed by the housewife while the latter is consumed by the youth. On a national scale you have one TV set homes mostly. But in the Elite Panel there are multiple TV set homes. So while the overall numbers are the same when you break it down into soaps and reality shows the viewing is split evenly in the Elite Panel. This means that the second TV set is being used to watch reality shows by the younger members. This gives channels an idea of the kind of shows that can be created for the Elite versus what is being done for the rest of the country.

The Elite segment has nuclear families with bigger homes. There are two kinds of homes. One is executive which has lesser kid's, while some of them are Dink (double income no kid's) homes. The business family is larger. The day parts both watch are different as also is the content.

Another difference is the behaviour of this audience towards weekends. In a national panel time spent declines. Here it goes up. News is watched a lot. Sports viewing depends on the significance of an event. It needs to be interesting. They will watch an event whether it is cricket or tennis or Formula one if the match is interesting. Schumacher's last Grand Prix touched a rating of over three in the Elite Panel while in the national panel it was 0.22. Viewing of sports depends more on the quality of the match rather than on the tournament per se. Kids and movies fare better on the Elite Panel.

What has the media feedback been like for this service?

It has been good. We are examining the possibility of expanding it to other markets like Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata. It has been two years since we started work on the panel. The challenge was to keep the panel intact. We have 125 homes in Delhi and 125 homes in Mumbai.

Technologically we had to make sure that data could be downloaded which is not easy given that the telecom infrastructure is already overloaded. We did special techniques to recruit homes. We spoke to them in terms of what we are trying to do. We had trained people visiting the homes with laptops.

Can sports viewing for non-cricket grow?

There are some learnings from cricket. Firstly you need star appeal. Would you watch cricket without Sachin, Saurav, Dravid and Dhoni?

Secondly media coverage is crucial. The reason why the soccer World Cup last year fared so well was due to the enormous coverage and hype in the media particularly in newspapers. Then there needs to be drama. Cricket has controversy, which creates aura. For instance Saurav coming back sparked debate.

What is your outlook for radio this year?

We have expanded our measuring to 32 stations now for AdEx. Earlier it was 13 stations. We are seeing radio ad expenditure growing.

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