TAM-Broadcaster face-off: Media agencies give their perspective

MUMBAI: The mighty fallout between broadcasters and TAM Media which has left the entire television and media fraternity in a tizzy, will take some time to be mended. While leading broadcasters including MSM, Star India, Viacom18, Zee TV and Network18 obviously think it is okay to unsubscribe from TAM‘s TV ratings service, some media agencies believe that such a sudden halt is not ideal, or rather unfair.

As ZenithOptimedia managing partner Navin Khemka puts it: "There needs to be an industry metric, a consensus has to be reached. However, just stopping something, which has been in the industry for the past 14 years, is very abrupt and I don‘t agree with it. It could take four to five months to resolve all the issues and there can be a blackout until then. But at the end of everything, an amicable solution has to be reached."

A media planner on condition of anonymity said that not subscribing to TAM will not solve any problem. "I expect clients to continue using TAM data. The system is not perfect but there is no alternative. You need some measurement in place. Media buying cannot be done only on the basis of perception."

On the contrary, Big CBS business head Anand Chakravarthy says that the company has not yet taken a decision on whether or not to continue with TAM. "We have had issues with data. We have noticed vagaries and we raised it with TAM in the past."

He further adds: The issues with data are obvious. A change is needed. It is good that the large broadcasters have noticed it as well. If action can result in a positive change in the ratings system then it is good. A measurement system has to serve a purpose which is helping channels understand what viewers are watching so that they can plan their content better and also help companies plan their ad and marketing campaigns better. If the measurement system is flawed then it does not help either party. You cannot have a measurement system for the sake of it."

Khemka throws some light on the contributing factors of this sudden decision taken by the broadcasters: "I think there are a lot of environmental factors responsible for this fallout by the broadcasters- DAS, LC1 and many other factors are at play because of which gauging the viewership has become an issue."

Following the fiasco, TAM Media CEO LV Krishnan proposed this morning that he was open to doing away with LC1 markets and deploying people meters elsewhere where they are needed. Asked if removing LC1 cities is a wise solution, most agencies replied in the negative.

"If you ask me, I think that there should be national representation. Doing away with LC1 is not right and probably not the best solution," says Khemka.

Another media planner tells us: "The representation according to me is the issue. The sample size needs to be larger. One thing that the broadcaster‘s decision will do though is wake TAM up and make them do something. If the industry had concerns then TAM should have addressed them."

He also thinks that there will be conflict in the future if advertisers rely on TAM but the channels do not. "Things will become clearer in the coming days. But in doing deals if one party (channels) is not using TAM data and the other party (advertisers, agencies) is using TAM data then arguments will happen."

Commenting on Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), the alternative suggested by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), Vivaki exchange CEO Mona Jain says: "I am fine with any organisation until they provide me an authentic viewership data. The idea for BARC has been only conceptualised. So, I won‘t be able to comment anything on this."

She also added that "Removing TAM in LC1 markets is not going to help anyone or the data,"

Either way, probability hints at no ratings in the coming months. In that case, on what basis will advertisers make an informed decision? Khemka tells us the way forward: "For now, we haven‘t received an official statement about the ratings but yes, if all major broadcasters pull out, it will be very difficult for TAM to sustain itself. In the absence of ratings, we would decide on the basis of historical benchmarks and trends. Past records will be our guide."

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