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Examinees should not become examiners: Sathyamurthy Namakkal

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Examinees should not become examiners: Sathyamurthy Namakkal

A few stakeholders in the advertising fraternity would prefer research data to reflect their beliefs, often based largely on self-interests and ‘SSS’ (Single Sample Syndrome). They aver that TAM’s TV research scope and methodology is challenged and does not always capture the reality. Thankfully, a number of professionals are of another view – TAM numbers are “estimates” based on a sample survey, and not a viewership census. Hence, the data output is symptomatic. If TAM numbers indicate that a particular genre/channel viewership is dropping or gaining in a particular market, it is very likely that it could be the reality, if not now, tomorrow.  As professionals, we must read the symptoms correctly for our own good.

There are a few ironies that seem to be emerging now, which would worry any professional.

Research that does not reflect perception is dismissed as unreliable
We (advertising fraternity at large) did not mind TAM database to be the only currency for analysing TV viewership trends and for commercial time trading practices for decades now. Alternate currencies (like aMap) did not find many takers. One reason being many media agencies/audit consultants/owners and some advertisers had developed their software/hardware infrastructures based on TAM data.

Post digitisation Phase II (38 cities plus top eight metros in Phase I), many genres/channels have shown a drop in viewership, while the total viewership numbers are stable.

Some relatively smaller genres have gained.This seems to reflect the reality of consumer viewing patterns (See tables 1 & 2)

One of the primary reasons for this change seems to be ‘abundance of choice’ across strata. Post digitisation, with the increase in numbers of channels beamed into their homes, viewers seem to be spending some amount of time viewing relatively smaller genres/channels also. Does this mean that the larger general entertainment channels should question the veracity of data?

Table 1 – Genre level impact of digitisation

Source: TAM Viewership data         
Base: 4+ years           
Pre =  Weeks 36 to 39, 2012 = 2nd to 29th Sept 2012     
Post = Weeks 20 to 23, 2013 = 12th May to 8th June 2013
Prime time: 1800 to 2400 hours; Non Prime time: 0700 to 1800 hours     



Due to sheer availability of more channels, it is very likely that the consumers’ viewing time is now divided between their erstwhile favourite general entertainment channels and many more news/movie/other channels, at the cost of GECs.

Table 2 – Genre level impact of digitisation: Southern markets


Source : TAM Viewership data         
Base: 4+ years+           
Pre =  Weeks 36 to 39 = 2nd to 29th Sept 2012     
Post = Weeks 20 to 23 = 12th May to 8th June 2013     
Prime time: 1800 to 2400 hours; Non Prime time: 0700 to 1800 hours



With authority, comes responsibility
Assume for a moment that the TAM numbers do not reflect the reality of viewership trends in a particular market or a particular section of audience (say SEC A1+). The dire need is to endeavour to further improve the scope of research/methodology. This means increased investments. Many are willing to opine on everything, but seldom practice what they preach – that is investing more in media research. There are few or no exceptions here again among advertisers, advertising agencies and media owners.

Only exception – many are ready to invest in ‘customised research’, which will reflect that their ranking is #1 or # 2 or that their perception is indeed right!

Examinees want to be the examiners!
Most of us acknowledge that research should be “independent”. So, let us strive to make it so. In my opinion, interested parties should have a limited role to play.  And it is indeed improper for any stakeholder to question the veracity of data collected, post facto.

One is paying for research, so one has the right to bully!
Any stakeholder who benefits the most from research must pick up large share of research investments. But, just because one is contributing a fair investment to the industry research initiatives, it does not mean that it is one’s legitimate right to make unreasonable and inconsistent demands.

The new TV commercial advertising norms to be implemented from October 2013 (10 minutes of commercial advertising plus two minutes of self-programme promotions for every clock hour) are likely to impact all stakeholders. Broadcasters will have less commercial time to market, advertisers will have to pay an amended price/or explore other avenues and media planners and buyers will have to drastically change the way they deal with research data.

Cost Per Rating Point (CPRP) was one metric which the fraternity worked with. Many stakeholders were very comfortable with this, till the viewership of some of channels dropped post digitisation. If any stakeholder is now proposing a new metric of evaluation, they should do so in consultation and explicit buy-in from all interested parties – advertising agencies and advertisers or their respective governing bodies. Collaboration alone can bear true fruit for all stakeholders.

I sincerely hope that the new industry body BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) will finally become a reality or some other long-term solution to this recurring spat is found soon.

Till then, watch the repeat telecast or better still, watch this space…

The author is President and Head – Media of DDB MudraMax. The views expressed above are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of his organisation or network.


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