In a way, TAM ratings have been the bible for the advertisers and media agencies to decide what channel to advertise on and when. Now, with the CAS bill getting approved and set top-boxes more of a reality, there would be data generated through them also, which would provide media fraternity with substantial information – who is accessing what?
exchange4media considered it pertinent to talk to TAM honchos on their perspective on CAS, its impact on TAM service and the changes it would bring in. LV Krishnan, CEO, TAM India points out the positive side. Says he, "One good thing is that with introduction of CAS, serious marketing of TV channels will begin to happen. Till now the game was distribution led. With CAS coming in - the focus will shift to getting consumers in."
TAM, according to a few media watchers, might be affected by the implementation of CAS as the set-top boxes can generate 'accessibility data' that can be used by advertisers and media planners. Is there a place for both? "Of course," says Atul Phadnis, Director S Group, TAM India, "In a host of markets abroad where the Nielsen Peoplemeters are used, CAS already exists - including markets like the US. Audience Measurement service will not get affected due to CAS. The only change anticipated is in the C&S universe. The TV homes universe which is split as C&S and Non-C&S currently will have two further splinter groups within C&S - the FTACS [Free To Air C&S] and the CASCS [CAS CS] homes for the 4 metros".
Point taken. But now the audience will decide what they want to watch and would it not give the advertisers a clear picture of what works? Will the advertisers not go by the audience demand for their channel instead of TAM rating? Disagrees Phadnis. "Subscription to a bouquet does not guarantee viewerships for individual channels. Its like stocking a soap brand in a shop does not ensure pick-ups", is his argument. He continues, " Just like 'Stocking' is different from 'Picking-up'... 'Availability' is different from 'Viewing'. TAM reports viewership of channels or programs by individual target segments which an advertiser uses to buy his media. Just like in other international CAS markets, there will be no change to that practice here in India."
Almost convinced that TAM and CAS compliment each other and are not rivals, we moved on to discuss other CAS related subjects with TAM representatives. Star announced an apparent 25% decrease in its subscription rates. Is it a sign of times to come? Says Krishnan, "The decrease in prices will continue to happen. Whenever a new product is launched, where there is no product and communication differentiation, the easiest way to induce sampling is to give a freebee offer. We would now see these kind of gimmicks as the channels battle it out".
Another point to ponder is the future of free to air channels. Will the cable operators, specially those with smaller capacities, carry them at all as they would not really be bringing any revenues to them. Says Krishnan, "Free to air channels, in a way, won't be affected. Cable operators might charge a subscription fee from homes for free to air channels, which they don't have to pass on to the channels. On the other side, they can also charge a carriage fee from these free to air channels".