The second session of the exchange4media Conclave 2008, held in Mumbai on March 13, saw eminent speakers give insightful views on the role of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) and the industry expectations from other measurement bodies. NDTV Media is the Presenting Sponsor for the Conclave. The panelists included LV Krishnan of TAM, Paritosh Joshi of Star India, and Dilip Venkatraman of IBN 7. Sam Balsara was the moderator of the session.
As is known, the Joint Industry Body (JIB), which was a combination of members of the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA), Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) and the Indian Broadcast Federation (IBF), was dissolved, which then led to the formation of BARC to provide accurate research relating to television and other audio-visual media at a reasonable cost to users.
Moderating the session, Balsara wondered, “In a market that generates Rs 9,000 crore, how much does the industry spend on measurement?” According to Balsara, the reason behind broadcasters not shelling out much for measurement was that they wouldn’t like to pay for a system that could ‘unsell’ one’s brand in cases of low TRPs.
Commenting on the reach of TAM as a tool for audience measurement, Paritosh Joshi said, “I am afraid, it is not a representative of an entire population. We all know that there are around 40,000 cable services in India, but of this, the current rating mechanism considers only some 200 networks that go into ascertaining the viewership pattern across the country.”
While Joshi continued to stand by his point that TAM was not the most effective and comprehensive measurement tool, LV Krishnan took the audience through what he called ‘The Blueprint for Futuristic BARC’. He said that one could have the sample size increased and boundaries for measurements transcended for much more accurate reflection of viewership in the country. Starting off his presentation, Krishnan explained, “A long term vision is essential. We should know the probable changes the industry could see in the next 5-10 years. We should be clear in defining the direction of measurement – should it cover more of rural or urban? Apart from this, we also need an industry team for consolidation, ensure simple and direct communication to stakeholders, and ensure due funding on research for greater insights on viewership data.”
aMap’s Amit Varma pointed out that in a situation where the market fragmented rapidly, it became challenging for any measurement tool to keep pace with the fragmenting media. “Do we have the technology for measuring audience on all the platforms at the disposal of the viewers today? We need to take technology seriously and be futuristic for measurement in the ever fragmenting media,” he added.
Varma further explained that the measurement mechanism today did not have the tools to accurately ascertain data for both rural and urban markets. “We need to have two different metrics for urban and rural measurement because these are completely different markets when it comes to consumption pattern of media. In a village, you will have hundreds of people glued to one television set, and the numbers will keep changing. How is it possible to measure the audience there?” he asked.
According to Varma, “The solution is technology, and it’s going to play a big role in audience measurement. But whether the industry is ready to invest heavily on this is a big question.”
Coming from a news background, Venkatraman of IBN Network brought a different perspective to the discussion. He said that the end consumer was not at all influenced by the TRPs, and that they didn’t choose what they wanted to see on the basis of viewership data. “The end consumer doesn’t bother about measurements. Even if a show indicates abysmal ratings, he will watch it if he likes it,” he remarked.
Commenting on entry barriers/competition, Venkatraman opined, “It is more convenient to have one currency. I am not saying that I am pro-TAM, but I think many currencies would only create confusion in the industry. A comprehensive and accurate currency would ensure less confusion and complexities in the broadcast business.”
In his closing remarks Balsara said that BARC as an industry body should lay down specifications and parameters of measurement study, and via competitive bids an agency should be awarded with the responsibility to look after all measurement issues.
The session ended on the note that viewers needed to be pulled in by differentiating content, and that was how the advertisers could be roped in once the eyeballs were there. Everyone agreed that measurement was important, and that the way forward was technology.
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