The AAAI and ISA have stood by TAM and criticised broadcasting networks who have decided to unsubscribe the ratings. In a press statement, Arvind Sharma, President, AAAI said, “The move by broadcasters to discontinue with ratings is ill-advised and not in the interest of advertisers, advertising agencies or broadcasters. It will lead to overpaying and underpaying of advertising time, both of which will lead to a collapse of TV as an advertising medium. The ratings from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) are yet some time away and until they are released, it is critical to continue with the current system. Most broadcasters all over the world have some issue with media measurement systems but that does not mean that the system must be abandoned. Instead it must be improved and identified gaps must be plugged.”
Multi-Screen Media (MSM), Times Television Network (TTN) and New Delhi Television (NDTV) have written to TAM to withdraw from the system. Network 18, which owns CNN-IBN and CNBC among other channels, has a subscription with TAM till December, but has decided ‘in principle’ to withdraw and ask TAM to refund their fees. Other networks are expected to follow suit soon.
The question which stands significantly unanswered in the scenario is that on what parameters will the broadcasters claim their competency if not TAM’s ratings? TAM is the only source of ratings, which has been relied upon till now. Although highly placed industry sources suggest that till an “authentic” system of ratings is not established, channels would rely upon perception and their brand value. Some sources also claim that channels would use their own mechanism to track the “actual” viewership. But nobody has officially given any comments on what would be the ground on which a channel would argue its competency.
A senior media planner, on condition of anonymity, said, “It is an established fact that there are problems between the broadcasters and TAM, but withdrawing subscriptions will not be the solution. See it from our perspective. We cannot distribute advertisements like that. There has to be a credible and authentic data about viewership. Since there is no alternative, we would rely on the data provided by TAM only. Although property and channel value will be taken into consideration before the budgets are finalised, how would we come to know about the RoI. The entire broadcast industry would be affected.”
“This is ridiculous. Every channel will have its own mechanism to measure audience. Which channel on the earth will claim that its viewership is low? We should be real in terms of our acceptance and approach. If the low sample size is the problem, then channels should resort to solve the issue. BARC will anyways come into operation post 2014. What will the channels do till then? Agencies will be using the available TAM data only. If channels respond to them with the brand value approach, then there is a huge possibility of a frequency deficit,” said Vishal Shekhar, Independent Media Analyst.
In an earlier interaction with exchange4media, IBF Chairman Man Jit Singh had said, “We are trying to establish a transparent agency which would tell us about audience visibility in a complex market like India. In our approach and objectives, we would aspire to be better even than BARB in UK. Even as the universe of television households is increasing, TAM data shows decreasing viewership. The size of sample, lack of transparency, and lack of consensus establishment among stakeholders are key reasons for industry to be not satisfied with TAM.”
Satyajit Sen, CEO, Zenith Optimedia said, “Currently TAM is the best data available in the market. Other broadcasters, agencies and advertisers will be using it to take planning decisions. What might happen on broadcasting front could be that TAM ratings would no more be used to influence pricing of inventories for them. If some broadcasters feel that the TAM ratings are not showing their actual viewership, then they would not be using the same to influence the pricings. Secondly, there is also a possibility that the channels would be using their distribution data to arrive at their viewership numbers. Data could be different for LC1 markets and the Class 1 markets and this could be used to establish their viewership numbers.”
What is also interesting to see is how funds are raised for BARC in times to come. Funding has been highlighted as the biggest challenge for TAM to expand its sample size. When asked about funding, senior members of IBF and AAAI who are stakeholders in BARC had mentioned that “BARC is not reasonably funded. The money would depend upon the sample sizes, installation of meters and the number of subscribers.”
In an earlier interaction, LV Krishnan, CEO, TAM had said, “Till the time work of BARC kick-starts, why can’t the industry just constitute a small body to work with TAM and introspect the areas where they have a common concern?”
Whether the industry caters to this demand or not will be decided by the developments in the future, but as of now, experts are sceptical over the parameters on which broadcasters would make their sales pitch without TAM data.