MUMBAI: For the past three months, the focus of the entire TV industry has been on the new industry-backed Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). It was almost a given that the decade-old viewership ratings agency TAM Media Research would slip away into the night as the newbie had got the government’s and industry’s support.
But TAM is not disappearing. It got some relief last week as the Delhi High Court adjourned to 26 August the hearing on its parent Kantar Media Research’s suit against the government-declared regulation on cross holding patterns of TV ratings agencies.
And unknown to many, TAM is working to comply with the other requirements of TV ratings agency guidelines to continue to exist. A long standing demand of industry and a crucial criterion requiring compliance is the minimum number of peoplemeters. And TAM apparently is coming up to speed on this.
“We are continuing to increase the size of the panel but haven’t announced exact numbers and timings around it,” Kantar CEO Eric Salama told indiantelevision.com last week.
According to the ‘policy guidelines for TV rating agencies,' the minimum peoplemeter sample size has to be 20,000 homes. So Salama’s response to indiantelevision.com seems to imply that TAM will likely aim for that figure.
TV rating agencies also have to apply for a licence before they can operate in India and there cannot be any cross holding between agencies and TV ratings agencies. The latter regulation is something that Kantar has challenged in the Delhi High Court and TAM can continue to be operational until the court pronounces its verdict. But it has applied for a TV ratings agency licence to the ministry of information & broadcasting. There is no word from the ministry on the same, as the guidelines don’t prescribe a deadline for the approval or disapproval of the licence.
We reached out to but TAM, but none of its officials were available for comment at the time of filing this report.
Industry however isn’t too concerned whether or not TAM increases it people meter sample as it is BARC they are banking on and awaiting patiently. Says a senior executive from a news channel, “Who cares whether or not TAM is expanding its meters. Government is backing BARC.”
Another broadcast CEO stated: “We don’t know what TAM is trying to achieve by increasing its sample size,” he said. “Are they trying to confuse the stakeholders or are they grandstanding?”
Now the question is if TAM does scale up, and is not shut down by some quirk of fate: can the industry support two ratings agencies? In the past it has not been able to. Intam was the first TV viewership monitoring service which was set up in 1994 by ORG-Marg. TAM, followed in 1998. But former was merged into TAM in 2001. aMAP was set up in 2004; commenced operations in 2007, folded up in 2011. TAM continued to hold ground, despite carping from industry.
And now we are in a time where another rival has reared its head - BARC, which is set to roll out its ratings by end-2014. Will history be repeated or a new chapter be written?