There is much that is heard and said on the issue of the current ratings systems in India. Media Research User’s Council (MRUC) has taken the debate a step forward and organised the first User Body Meet to delver further into the issue.
Lynn de Souza, Member, Board of Governors, MRUC, and Director, Media Services, Lintas India, elaborated on various areas where inadequacy of the current ratings systems came to the fore. She emphasised that the meet was not to play a ‘rate the ratings’ game, but to evaluate what the industry currently got and what it needed.
The panellists of the first meet that was held in Mumbai constituted of other members of the MRUC governing board – Nabankur Gupta (Member of Board of Advisors, Raymond Ltd), Arvind Sharma (Chairman and CEO, Leo Burnett India) along with MRUC’s Technical Committee Chairperson Roda Mehta and de Souza.
A follow-up meet for more viewpoints and suggestions will be held in Delhi on September 16, 2005. The panellists there will be Paresh Nath, Chintamani Rao and G Krishnan.
The audience for the Mumbai meet comprised the likes of Peter Mukerjea, CEO, STAR India; Reliance Infocomm’s Amit Ray; Media Head for HLL, Rahul Helde; ETV’s Venkat; Starcom’s Nikhil Rangnekar, apart from various other industry leaders and professionals who offered their viewpoints on the present status of ratings and the possible way forward.
De Souza began the discussion by highlighting that the Rs 5,000-crore ad industry needed to pay more attention to the kind of data available, which would not only be representative of India’s populace but would also bring out other viewing aspects, which were more than just domestic viewing.
She further cited findings from FICCI reports, which suggested that going forward revenues would come from subscriptions rather than advertising. Enumerating more points, she said, “Digitisation increases content life and, therefore, the audience size. There are new business models for TV networks.”
Laying down these ground realities, she said that in a fragmented and interactive future, peoplemeters ratings were good for large homogenous audience and assessment of TV schedules – pre- and post-delivery. “But they are not adequate for specialist channels, non-domestic viewing like in hotels, offices and clubs, accompanied viewing and time delayed viewing on extended content,” she noted.
The other points that came across in her address were about the problems that Nielsen research is facing internationally to the extent that the US government is contemplating interference in the ratings system.
On a global comparison, India is the lowest on TV homes per peoplemeter. Throwing examples that suggested the need for more work on the ratings systems, de Souza referred to a survey carried out by Intellect, the research arm of Lintas Media Group, that showed that the highest office viewing of the fourth One Day International of the Pepsi Cup took place in the 1.30 pm to 3.30 pm slot, when it was the lowest for home viewing.
International studies throw points about accompanied viewing, differences in the viewing patterns of the users of different mediums and out of home viewing that reiterate the need to bring a change in the present status of TV ratings. With this she posed the User Body with questions and propositions, the responses to which could be the way forward for the TV ratings system in India.
Some of these were, “Do we need meters in Bihar?”, “Would a monthly report on viewing behaviour in 500 towns and villages be better than waiting indefinitely for meter data in another 50?”, “How about a quarterly subscription audit in 100 centres?”, “A half-yearly 50 centre study on out of home viewing” or “An annual rider with the IRS to estimate the extent and nature of accompanied viewing?”
The floor was then opened to opinions and suggestions from the panellists and the User Body members. A point stated right in the beginning was that there were two ways in which MRUC could improvise the ratings systems. One would be a complete alternate body, which provided its own ratings or a body that complimented the present ratings system and brought out enough reliable and representative data for the industry to bank on with any concern or doubt.
The User Body deliberated and debated on various points – the issues of non-representative sample size, non coverage of two TV households, appropriate data for niche channels and coverage of rural India came to fore.
Another set of points that the Body discussed was whether a cheaper route could be taken to source out data, the confusion that is created by the presence of multiple currencies and the need to exert care in ensuring that this is avoided in whichever route MRUC finally takes, the use of technology to capture data, dialogue with players like mobile companies and TV manufacturers to seek alternative data collection routes and doing it all in a structure that still kept data affordable.
The meet was concluded with various sections of the industry – broadcasters, media agencies and advertisers putting their concerns and suggestions forth. De Souza stated at the end of the meet that with the completion of this first round, MRUC got a beginning of its initiative of working on television data.
More on what route it would take – of a challenger to the data providers today or work together as a cross reference mode – would shape up when the subsequent meet in Delhi was concluded.