Television

The TAM story continued…

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It has clearly broadcast its intent: the Rs 37,000 crore Indian TV broadcasting industry wants change in the way TV viewership is monitored in India. Though a lot of noise has been made about the quality of and what was wrong with the ratings, followed by broadcasters‘ cancellation notices to TAM Media Research‘s service, nothing specific was forthcoming from them on what those changes should be. This was followed by a period when speculation was that TAM‘s ratings would be blacked out for a while until it corrected itself and satisfied broadcasters.

But despite denials from the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) very senior management sources in television channels have toldindiantelevision.com that the cancellation notices by the broadcasters stand cancelled. I guess one shouldn‘t be surprised. Long after some broadcasters unsubscribed, they continued to claim their No 1 position. How? As per ratings, of course.

Confirming this is the CEO of a TV channel: "Most of the broadcasters who sent in their subscription cancellation letters to TAM have withdrawn them. Nobody will come on record; the IBF will say no it has not happened, but the cancellations stand cancelled. All the channels who say they have unsubscribed have been circulating ratings internally and to their producers. So who says that they have cancelled their subscriptions to TAM?"

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Most of the broadcasters who sent in their subscription cancellation letters to TAM have withdrawn them. Nobody will come on record; the IBF will say no it has not happened, but the cancellations stand cancelled. 

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But to be fair, the broadcasters did write to TAM withdrawing their subscriptions, but they did not ‘enforce‘ those letters. TAM continued to give out ratings and the industry continued to download them. Besides, one-third of the broadcasting industry unsubscribing was not a shut-down, but a warning. A warning which was very much required. 

While Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) is underway and will possibly take over the industry as the sole ‘currency‘ for television ratings by mid-next year, a black-out in the interim period is not a desirable situation for any of the stakeholders, is what we understand.

So the fact is TAM never went away really. What happened was that there were threats to make it go away, but behind closed doors the broadcasters worked on elucidating what they would like TAM to do to win their favour and their custom. Their list of demands, part of which was reported by Mint, includes:

Monthly data v/s Weekly data

Broadcasters prefer their ratings on a monthly basis as opposed to every week. This means data will be week specific, yet it will be available for consumption only at the end of the month.

No ratings for smaller niche

Any cell or segmentation which has less than 30 peoplemeters employed in it, should not be reported. This translates to no ratings for smaller niche channels in that particular month. The idea behind this restriction is self-explanatory. ‘No data is better than insufficient data.‘

CPT v/s CPRP

A lot of the chaos surrounding TAM ratings arises out of tall claims made by channels based on ‘share‘. The broadcasters wish to do away with the share syndrome and want the data strictly in numbers. This implies that the market standard will now have to change from Cost Per Rating Point (CPRP) to Cost Per Thousand (CPT). Broadcasters want to be told the exact number of viewers they are reaching in thousands, irrespective of the share aspect, which as I understand, is prone to loopholes.

BARC supervision

The broadcasters‘ have demanded that the implementation of all their demands and the overall technical procedure is subject to BARC‘s tech committee‘s supervision.

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Broadcasters have complained for long, that in a country where millions of viewers are getting added annually and there is a robust digitization exercise in place, how can they believe TAM's claim of the TV universe shrinking? In this context, the demand for increasing the viewers, only seems justified.

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From 145 million to 260 million

The total television viewing universe in India is approximately 500 million. Out of this, around 240 million comprises rural viewers which are not covered by TAM. This leaves 260 million urban, semi-urban and semi-rural viewers. Currently, TAM covers a universe of 140 million viewers only. The broadcasters rightly demand that the sample base should be boosted to 260 million viewers to cover the entire non-rural universe.

Broadcasters have complained for long, that in a country where more viewers are getting and there is a robust digitization exercise in place, how can they believe TAM‘s claim of the TV universe shrinking? In this context, the demand for increasing the viewers only seems justified.

The fallout happened due to a number of causative factors. Inaccuracy, lack of transparency and illogical explanation were some of the complaints made by the broadcasting industry for a considerably long period of time.

Besides, it was important to send out a clear message to TAM and the rest of the world, that the Indian broadcasting industry is capable of dismantling an existing system by their united strength. Also, the time was right to set the stage for the upcoming BARC. The sudden outburst against TAM was not so sudden after all.

The concerns of all involved have to be addressed sooner than later. And it is definitely a positive development to know that broadcasters finally chose to break their golden silence and initiate corrective measures.

The consensus between TAM and broadcasters is believed to have been reached for the above-mentioned demands. So far everyone stands divided on the way forward based on broadcasters five or six point plan. It is now up to TAM to convince agencies and advertisers, both of which are very crucial stakeholders in the entire set up.

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