Advertisers vs broadcasters: Peace pipe smoked finally

MUMBAI: Phew! One can finally breathe a sigh of relief now that the three stakeholders - Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) - have come up with a consensus after almost two weeks of a standoff. Two weeks that drove everyone in the business into a tizzy whether it was the stakeholders or media or financial journos who merrily reported and misreported on the developments.

To give a background of how it all started: the announcement by seven (earlier eight) broadcasters to go for monthly ratings created a lot of chaos when top 20 advertisers said that they would pull out their ads from TV, if weekly ratings weren‘t released or referred to.

After numerous meetings and exchanges of emails, the three bodies along with TAM came up with the solution. Thanks to the core team comprising IBF president Man Jit Singh, AAAI president Arvind Sharma and chairman of Media Committee and Managing Committee of ISA Hemant Bakshi with numerous others.

From now onwards, the media and public will get to know television viewership in thousands, colloquially referred to as TVT. TVT captures and reflects growth in TV audiences in the country in absolute numbers and will be the sole rating available in the public domain.

For internal evaluation including planning and buying, percentage TVR weekly and all other data will be available to advertisers and advertising agencies as in the past. Broadcasters will also have access to this information, should they so desire.

In addition an option of TVT as a four-week rolling average will be provided every week. The rolling average is a statistically more stable data on viewership, especially for smaller audiences in niche channels, regional languages, English language programs and news.

The consensus puts everything - number, percentage, weekly and monthly ratings - on the platter for advertisers, agencies and broadcasters. So how is it any different from what existed?

Explains a highly placed industry expert, “To be frank, even today, very few advertisers, broadcasters and planners understand how ratings work. And they worked according to whatever little knowledge or understanding they had. So, through this new agreement, the biggest change is that broadcasters will get the number of people who watch their channel and will help them do commerce better.”

He goes on to elaborate with an example of a news channel which has limited audience. “Imagine if a news channel comes to know how many people watch the channel or a particular show through the four-week rolling average (as news channels have a lot of fluctuation) it will help them do sensible business. It will make the scenario robust. And remember in the case of a smaller targeted news channel or niche channel, advertisers would be more than willing to pay a premium for that audience, as it is extremely focused.”

On the consensus AAAI ’s president, Arvind Sharma says, “We (advertisers and agencies) have always accommodated what broadcasters’ wanted. We are happy with the new system. However, for us to plan, sell, to find reach etc, weekly percentage is very important and will always be.”

As per the agreement, TAM is scheduled to release the ratings for the previous three weeks tomorrow. However, for the other changes to come into effect, the ratings provider needs to update its software to be friendly to the new system.

And, as for the cancellations sent by advertisers to the seven broadcasters, a formal withdrawal letter will be sent out by advertisers to the networks over the next few days.

Another big development in the issue is that the three constituents have also agreed that TAM will make all future audience measurement changes based on inputs from the joint-industry BARC Technical Committee.

On this Sharma adds, “The more important issue here is that now we have people on board who are technically more trained and have resources to help us with challenges we faced earlier. Even in the future, if there is any standoff, we already have a mechanism to help us.”

TAM is also happy that a settlement has been reached as it was caught in the crossfire, almost like an innocent victim. “TAM is happy to receive a common brief from the three industry stakeholders (IBF, ISA and AAAI) and will work very closely with them to ensure its smooth roll out,” says the agency’s spokesperson.

“All three bodies didn’t like the way TAM gave out ratings, but now we have a common ground for all so hopefully all will be well now,” says the media expert optimistically.

However, one of the news broadcasters on the latest development says, “Nothing will solve the issue but BARC. BARC is the ultimate solution.”

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