Uncertainty over ratings dark period grows as b'casters stay away from renewing TAM subscription

MUMBAI: With anxiety comes confusion, and that?s exactly the undercurrent right now in the Indian broadcast industry. When asked broadcasters and media planners about the status of TV ratings in the coming weeks, all we got was uncertainty.

To set things in perspective, the TAM TV ratings subscription of most of the broadcasters including Star, Zee, Colors, Sony and NDTV amongst others expired on 31 March, 2015. What's more, none of these broadcasters have renewed their agreement with the ratings body. 

Not only this, earlier in March, the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) had issued a directive asking broadcasters to opt for Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) and to review and close off on any of the existing arrangements (read: TAM).

To add to this, while BARC is ready to roll out its data, no formal announcement on the date has been made so far. In such a scenario, the most pertinent question remains - ?Will the industry see a ratings blackout for a week or two??

?We haven?t renewed our subscription with TAM, but there is still no clarity on when BARC will start rolling out its data. While a few say it?s April, a few also say it could be extended to May. There is confusion,? said an official from a channel, on condition of anonymity.  

Meanwhile, several media agencies have been informing their clients through email about the current situation. One such email says, ?The industry bodies have agreed to cease using TAM ratings from 4 April. Rating blackout period will kick in from 5 April, until such time that BARC is available. Data for blackout period will not be available in the future too.?

The email further reads, ?The old data, i.e. till 4 April, will be available during the period of the blackout and beyond. During rating blackout, we plan to use past TAM data as the basis for TV plan creation. All industry bodies- ISA, AAAI and IBF are aligned on this method for ratings in data dark period. The same methodology will be used by all constituents for media planning, buying.?

?Yes, we are informing all our clients, depending upon how it will affect them. There is curiosity and uncertainty and to address that I am sure every agency must be writing to their clients to brief them about what is happening, whether ratings will be there or not and how it will be tackled,? said Dentsu Aegis Network chairman & CEO South Asia Ashish Bhasin. 

TAM, on the other hand, will continue generating ratings data and give it out to broadcasters whose subscription hasn?t expired. ?The data will be available, but if broadcasters haven?t renewed their subscription, of course it will not be available to them. Those whose subscription is in place will get the data as usual. So there is no ratings dark period from TAM?s side,? said a source. 

A veteran media expert informed, ?TAM can continue coming out with its data, but it will no longer be a viewership currency. It will just work as information.?

A news broadcaster, on condition of anonymity, said, ?Our subscription with TAM got over on 31 March. We haven?t heard from BARC on the exact date for rollout of data. We have received a letter from AAAI and IBF asking us to re-evaluate ourselves and take the decision on whether we would like to opt for BARC or TAM, once the former comes out with its ratings.?

The broadcaster added, ?Given the fact that our subscription with TAM got over on 31 March and the date for BARC data rollout isn?t yet announced, logically, there could be a 15 day ratings gap.? 

A media planner informed that as per the advisory issued by AAAI, ISA and IBF none of the members should renew their subscription with TAM, until BARC comes out with its data. ?I feel there could be more four weeks, until BARC comes out with its data,? the media planner said.

A clearer picture will emerge after BARC?s meeting on 6 April, which will be attended by advertisers, agencies and broadcasters. In the meeting, the debutant monitoring body will be sharing data with those present.

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