As an industry practitioner, I’ve been observing all the going-on and frankly I’m quite concerned and thought my voice needed to be heard.
The entire drama that’s going around the TV ratings issue is just meaningless. It has only cost a lot of senior executive time which could actually have been avoided. In a medium which is as dynamic as TV, the broadcasters unwillingness to have them measured on weekly intervals, doesn’t really talk well of their faith in their own business. The very same broadcasters that used to release ads highlighting their investor returns, quoting the weekly rating numbers like the Sensex movement, now feel the weekly ratings do not work.
A system that’s tracked to measure the audience behaviour on a minute to minute basis will of course throw up surprises. One can question the system and the mechanism and come up with better solutions, together. BARC is one such solution. But changing the whole operating model mid-way will send every constituent in a spin. How’s one expected to create media plans based on monthly reporting of few channels and weekly of others? While some can feel an argument is won because the audience measurement producer will have no choice when a large part of the cost of his infrastructure is dependent on the subscription by the broadcasters.
This is an interdependent industry and such unilateral decisions can only take one away from the other. The first was the Nett/Gross billing issue. While there was a genuine concern of tax bills received by broadcasters on the commission component, how is it fair that the broadcasters decided to make their agency partners suffer? Media agencies working on wafer thin margins had to further lose money. Couldn’t a joint representation be made to the relevant authorities as one body in support of an age-old tradition of agency commission?
On the other hand, it is also true that there are hard core rate negotiations on the time purchased by media agencies. In spite of these negotiations, I personally feel TV stations get paid adequately for the audiences delivered. Now that brings us to the other question on CPT vs. CPRP. Why does this question arise? Because the TV audience population in the country is on the rise; that’s the truth. But if one were to base this argument on the number of TV sets that sets sold, around nine million last year, almost the entire bit in the urban markets went towards replacements or in some cases as second TV. The rest went in the rural/smaller markets. Now unfortunately, the current audience measurement only covers urban. And the attempt to cover LC1 was faced with other challenges. As the base grows, ratings which is time weighted should also grow?
I also believe the programming teams at the channels create twists in the story lines of their shows based on the weekly ratings. This captures the dynamism of the environment. Will the channels now be willing to remove that kind of focus from the content?
The whole addressable system will bring in transparency. Carriage fees will substantially reduce and will definitely impact in additional subscription revenue. The 10+2 will make the environment look far more attractive for the viewers. Advertisers will be willing to pay a premium based on audience retention and lesser drops of the viewership between the programme and ad breaks. Broadcasters business will only thrive. It is evident from the new channels being launched even in monopolised markets.
I really can’t figure out why this attitude of my way or the highway that persist? Why can’t there be more meaningful discussions with a view to resolving problems as equal stakeholders? Are we not part of the same business ecosystem? Eventually who wins and who loses? Barring some egos!
The author is Managing Director, Vizeum India