Industry insiders and highly placed sources within the industry have indicated that stakeholders in the television ratings system are holding crucial discussions among themselves as well as with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to avoid a ratings blackout in the near future. The IBF, AAAI and ISA are engaged in carving out a working solution to avoid a ratings blackout, which might happen within a month in case TAM shuts down.
As per the TRAI guidelines, no existing rating agency can have a cross holding of more than 10 per cent equity. The existing ratings agency TAM has Kantar and Neilson as its equity partners. The Ministry has given 30 days timeline for the existing rating agency to comply with the registration norms.
Arvind Sharma, President, AAAI said, “MIB has expressed its inability to extend the deadline. In the absence of ratings, it would become difficult for the advertisers to place their economics. But these are early days and we have 30 days, where we will be able to come up with a solution.”
Other senior sources told exchange4media that since the Union Cabinet has approved the guidelines, it might become difficult to extend the deadline, but efforts are on. Advertisers and marketers say that in the absence of any rating alternative, existence of TAM is inevitable. “BARC is expected to be launched only in October and one cannot work without ratings in any form whatsoever,” said a senior advertiser.
Apart from this, sources are indicating at various possibilities being talked about. “We will work out something before the deadline. Ratings blackout will not happen. We will also involve TAM in these negotiations when the time is right,” said a highly placed source in the broadcasting industry.
Presumptions such as BARC buying stake in TAM, Kantar selling its stake to Neilson, ratings to be used within the industry and not to the third party, etc., have surfaced, however there is no confirmation on any of these.
Who gets affected?
Considering the alternate side of the development, in case ratings blackout happens, GECs will be the most affected genre due to its mass nature. News and sports, which enjoys high number of male viewership, will not be affected much as per the marketers investing on TV. Relative share of news in the ratings is small and secondly male oriented advertisers will keep investing on the news channels (especially in the morning slot) relying on the tradition till now. Thirdly, large advertisers who usually advertise on GECs might or might not advertise on news channels and this will not affect much as the share of news channels in their advertising budget is very small.
However, advertisers say that GECs will be the most affected unless long term deals with some advertisers are panned out. But, considering the ever changing dynamics of advertising on TV like ad cap and subsequent inventory rate fluctuations this is unlikely.
A senior FMCG advertiser mentioned, “We all are waiting for BARC to come and play its role as expected. But till then, we can’t dismiss TAM as they are the ratings supplier. Imagine a situation where I might invest in a TV property with expectation of 4 TVRs, but it might be 0.4 TVR in reality. This situation is very vague and everything will be haywire. There is no question, therefore, of a ratings blackout.”