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Why NDTV chose to re-subscribe to TAM

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MUMBAI: The warring couple NDTV and TAM Media are back in bed and under the sheets together with the news network organisation re-subscribing to the TV ratings service in early April.  If readers will recollect, both NDTV and TAM have been having several rounds of fisticuffs - in court and in industry forums - about how its services are flawed and how it incorrectly depicts its viewership.

Industry professionals are raising their eyebrows questioning how this rancour was resolved? 

It may be recalled that several broadcast networks had rallied against TAM's TV ratings service in mid-2013, and some had even chosen to unsubscribe. Many of them, however, backtracked and re-subscribed, following TAM's assurance that they would heed broadcasters' requests.

NDTV, for its part, had chosen to unsubscribe to TAM data beginning 21 September 2013, holding on to its stand about the flawed nature of the TV viewership ratings.

TAM continued monitoring NDTV on a weekly and monthly basis and providing its data to subscribers - broadcasters, agencies and marketers. But a little while later the rating agency chose to stop providing detailed programming and TV commercial level data to its subscribers. So advertisers, agencies could not fathom how viewers where consuming the NDTV network's programmes or the commercials it was airing on a second by second basis, say observers close to the situation. This led them to start giving the network a go-by from media plans. And this is what hurt NDTV as advertisers and agencies started questioning if they were getting a bang for their buck for ad dollars spent on the channel. The NDTV senior management was also fearful that its ad revenues which were showing signs of weakening could be impacted further because of the lack of detailed viewing data.

Simultaneously, it was investing in relaunches, revamps of its existing channels, and in its retail ecommerce venture. Additionally, the nationwide elections were coming up in the world's largest democracy which are expected to be a revenue bonanza for most news channels.

In order to feature in media planners' plans it needed to have its detailed numbers being provided in the TAM data sent out to  subscribers. Hence, it had to per force subscribe once again to TAM's viewership ratings service.

Senior NDTV sources say that TAM manipulated and compelled it to re-subscribe by stopping doling out the detailed programming and commercial data, even as they continue to hold the view that TAM 's viewership data monitoring is flawed - along with the industry, the MIB and TRAI.

"We need TAM's ad data. TAM, in its present form has to end in due course, and BARC, the new industry standard is coming soon," says a senior NDTV executive. "In the case of NDTV the flawed TRP data is not matched by any other data which has shown us to be leaders." 

TAM representatives however say that its hand was forced as NDTV had unsubscribed and failed to renew its contract which allows it to monitor a broadcasters' content.

Clearly, a truce seems to have been called, but it appears to be one which was forced and is probably only for the short-term.

(Updated on 12 May 2014 at 3:33 pm)

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