A few years back, it was Zee TV’s rating that was a sore point between the Essel Group and TAM Media Research. History has repeated itself; Essel Sports has locked horns with TAM once again over the ratings issue, this time over the Indian Cricket League (ICL). ICL has had a very poor show of numbers in its second season, according to TAM data. Essel has compared this to the numbers seen in aMap for ICL and other sports events. Essel’s argument is that when for every other sporting event, the so-called correlation between aMap to TAM number is 1:2 or 1:3, then why this trend has reversed only in the case of ICL numbers. Essel has issued a note to TAM seeking clarification on this.
The Indian media fraternity has mixed views on the subject. Even as media observers and industry leaders are clear that it is fundamentally incorrect to compare the ratings of two independent data systems, they also state that it is human logic to question deviations such as these, especially when certain trends and habits are formed. R Gowthaman, Leader, Mindshare South Asia, stated, “It is completely wrong to compare the two measurement systems as they use different methodologies. Nonetheless, over the past one and a half years, we have established a correlation between TAM and aMap. We have been living with this relationship, and it cannot be disowned for one particular instance.”
He elaborated, “There could be any reason for the deviation from the normal trend, such as the connectivity or the channels themselves – there are too many variables involved. But the reason behind this deviation has to be explained, and by both TAM and aMap.” Another media agency head opined on similar lines and said, “Correlation of two data is a quick, easy and a wrong thing to do. But we all make that mistake. ICL has every right to question this deviation.”
Joy Chakraborthy, Chief Revenue Officer, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL), who has also been given the additional charge of the sales of ICL, explained, “We are just asking for a simple clarification from TAM on this. There is always a correlation between aMap and TAM numbers for every genre. Being a daily measurement system, aMap helps broadcasters monitor and predict TAM’s weekly GRPs. These predictions are correct in almost all the cases – there may be a 2-5 per cent difference. Why is it that only in the case of ICL we see a complete reverse of the trend?”
TAM Media Research’s reaction to this was: “The TAM system is a content neutral system. Zee Group has been using TAM ratings for its various research and business activities across their general entertainment, regional, news, special interest channels and sports for many years. Like in the past, as a professional subscriber of TAM data, they are always welcome to approach us directly with any discomfort that they may have or for any additional help/clarifications that they may need, instead of approaching us via media. We will be glad to give them our helping hand in understanding the audience behaviour data.”
TAM has also said, “TAM Media Research will comment only on its own data, which has been the industry standard for the Indian television industry for the last decade. Over the last 10 years, TAM data has helped industry constituents derive insights and learnings across many, many major sporting events like Cricket World Cup, Football FIFA, Tennis, Hockey and many more broadcast by different specialist sports channels… and TAM will continue to do so even in the future.”
Essel’s note has a two-way concern. The first is on the “inconsistencies with past trends of TAM data”. TAM data shows that while for some of the ICL matches, TAM’s numbers are higher than that of aMap’s, for some others they are not.
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ZEEL’s Chakraborthy explained here, “Almost all agencies and advertisers have backed ICL, and we’ve had a great response. I also handle the distribution business for the network and my team has ensured complete connectivity for both Zee Sports and Ten Sports. We supported the launch with a massive marketing exercise that included front page ads in leading dailies, promotion across all of our channels and we also bought FCT (fixed commercial time) for marketing ICL. Why has this gross correlation happened despite all these efforts? Clients, too, are surprised with these numbers.”
Essel officials also said that even though they had contacted TAM on this subject a few days back, TAM had yet to revert to them. TAM Media Research said: “It is very disheartening to witness this development because the special S-Group team of TAM Media Research has been in regular touch with ICL team over the last two weeks and regularly helping the team understand the dynamics of TV Viewing.” To this, Chakraborthy replied, “Yes, the S-Group has been working with us, as they do with all the other channels, but TAM still has to get back to us on this.”
When asked why TAM was asked for a clarification and not aMap, Chakraborthy said, “Even as we use both aMap and TAM, TAM is the official currency. All channel owners have understood the correlation between the two data. In this case, when we first got aMap ratings, we were more or less satisfied as we put the general correlation of 1:2/1:3 and assumed a TAM rating of 2 to 3, which was our target. However, when the TAM ratings came, we were shocked. Being the revenue head of the company, we have to be able to answer our advertisers and clients. We had to ask TAM for the explanation, since TAM is the official currency.”
The case of the ‘Melbourne Review’ article
The second concern is in regards to “an article on the Internet” on TAM’s ratings.
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The note said, “Also, in this message Essel Sports had forwarded to TAM an article, which has recently been circulated on the Internet on the subject of television ratings in India. The article casts serious doubts on the credibility of ratings in India. While Essel Sports hopes that the contents of this article are incorrect, it has expressed its concern to TAM that the matter be clarified because the article casts serious aspersions on the methods used for audience measurement in India, which can impact television advertisement placement and pricing.”
exchange4media has seen a copy of the said article that has reportedly appeared in ‘Melbourne Review’, headlined ‘Television rating agency joins Indian cricket battle’. It may be noted that despite our efforts to contact Melbourne Review, which is a Business School publication from Australia, to know more on the article, neither the article nor the author could be traced.
TAM Media said to this, “There is a mention of an Internet article. TAM categorically states that we have received no article directly from the broadcaster. In fact, TAM came to know about this article after it was brought to our notice by industry members. What came as a bigger shock to TAM was when it discovered that this article was being proactively disseminated to an agency head by a very senior executive of the broadcast organisation. The Broadcaster was requested by TAM a number of times to help locate the weblink of the article, the source of the article or the author so that appropriate action could be taken. Much to TAM’s dismay, no help has yet come, which is very unfortunate and does not augur well for an industry trying to fight baseless biases against the measurement system.”
It is as good as anyone’s guess on where Essel and TAM would settle on this dispute. Nonetheless, this incident does raise a broader industry debate. Is the multiple measurement system really helping the industry?
When the data from both systems (TAM Media Research and aMap) is observed, it seen that in the case of ICL, there are an equal number of Live Match dayparts, where TAM has thrown higher numbers than aMap. The dayparts, where aMap numbers are higher is the reason for the problem that Essel Sports has raised with TAM.
The contentious article that triggered the ratings debate is said to have appeared in Melbourne Weekly. However, neither this article nor the author could be traced back.