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Gloves are off as BARC takes an indirect dig at the 'existing ratings system'

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Gloves are off as BARC takes an indirect dig at the 'existing ratings system'

The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) on January 20, 2014 formally announced Mediametrie as its technology partner. Mediametrie is a French joint industry body operating in the TV, internet and radio currency rating systems, engaged in multimedia audience research for the last 25 years.

According to Shashi Sinha, Head - Technical Committee, BARC, “It is a revolutionary technology, which is three generations ahead of what is happening in the country at this point of time. It is very accurate because it is based on the watermark embedded on the signals aired by the broadcaster. It ensures that it also measures simulcast programming. For example, if Manmohan Singh is speaking on several channels at the same time, a channel might get a miss in the present ratings system, but here one would know which channel is being viewed because of the watermark there.”

Meanwhile, BARC is expected to award other contracts over the next few months.  As far as the sample size is concerned, the Council claims that it would commence operations from October 1 with 25,000 people-meters.

Cost of the people-meters?
Sinha informed, “We will have 20,000 people-meters in the first phase. With multiple levels of checks and balances and the watermarking technology, which is also very transparent, we will deliver the first 20,000 people-meters at the same price.”

He maintained that per people-meter cost will be far less than the current prices. When asked about the low meter price equation and the mechanics of low costing as proclaimed by BARC, Punit Goenka, Chairman, BARC explained, “The reason of low costing is very simple. We are going with an open source technology, which is PC-based, while the technology which the current system uses is proprietary. I don’t know what the cost of making it is. When I get an open source technology, I can negotiate each component and, therefore, I know what the cost of making that meter is and we are going to get it manufactured from one of the best in the world. We are confident that we will be able to deliver the numbers.”

Is TAM getting subdued?
TAM has been very vocal about the fact that funding is a big issue and a hurdle in expanding the sample size. In an exclusive interaction with exchange4media in June 2013 (Raise funds, we will deliver dreams: LV Krishnan), LV Krishnan, CEO, TAM Media had said, “Raise funds and we will deliver dreams.”

When asked about TAM calling for hike in funds in order to expand the sample size, Goenka remarked, “I have never heard that we have to pay more for the ratings system, which is why TAM has not been able to expand its sample size. I have always maintained that is an inefficient system and not robust enough. Given the size of the country, the panel size is too small. If funding would have improved ratings, why wouldn’t any stakeholder pay money to TAM? We are willing to pay BARC then why not TAM?”

Another senior board member of BARC, on condition of anonymity, said, “TAM’s model of asking for funds is flawed. When one has to expand, one asks its investors and not stakeholders. Therefore, TAM should have asked for funds from Kantar and Neilson.”

When contacted, TAM refrained from commenting. Meanwhile, the ratings agency had published advertorials in national dailies highlighting that implementation of the guidelines on cross media ownership would leave the entire industry without ratings for most of 2014.

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