August 27, 2008 would go down in television audience measurement history as the day when TAM Media Research initiated the despatch of digital TV viewing data along with the regular weekly data that the organisation releases on the broadcasting audiences. Even as TAM has been measuring digital audiences for over a year now, the number was combined with that of analog data. Pradeep Hejmadi, Senior VP, TAM Media Research, explained that the digital penetration numbers hadn’t been high enough to report them individually. But that has changed now.
In the last two years, the digital numbers have grown enough for TAM to give the analog and digital numbers independent of each other. Hejmadi explained that a closer look at these numbers would unleash new opportunities in the broadcasting world as more media owners could track trends in the digital space and plan their moves accordingly.
The announcement and the rationale; the growth and the implication of digital television ratings were made at the TAM Educate Seminar – Blink that took place in Mumbai on August 26. Setting the tone for the digital evening was TAM Media Research’s CEO, LV Krishnan.
The projected 9 million homes by 2008 end opens a sea of new opportunities
LV Krishnan is excited about the digital opportunities that are slowly becoming a reality. As Big TV, Bharti DTH, and Sun Direct join the likes of DishTV, Tata Sky and DD Direct, the writing on the wall is clear. Direct-to-home is set to become big. In 1994, cable and satellite was 7 per cent of television homes and only a handful of industry visionaries had it in them to see that as the future of television. That future could soon be history with DTH sitting at 6.5 million homes, and projected to be in 9 million homes by the year-end. DTH today is 7 per cent of TV homes in India.
In his address, Krishnan took the audience through the difference between analog and digital and explained that everything from digital cable set-top box (STB) to DTH to IPTV to mobile TV was considered digital TV viewing. He also spoke on the TVM5 peoplemeter that TAM Media Research has been using for measuring digital audiences. “Digital is the new frontier of Indian television. There are enough trends emerging in the past year itself to give a closer look in the viewing habits of the digital audiences,” Krishnan added.
TAM Media Research has undertaken several surveys on CAS and DTH to understand how the viewer moves when given multiple viewing choices. Krishnan informed that the beginning of CAS in January 2007 saw almost a 70 per cent audience staying with FTA itself, indicating that CAS hadn’t really caught the viewer’s fancy despite being mandated by the Government.
However, the digital home has been witnessing changes. The three clear benefits that Krishnan pointed out were that people were watching more channels because there were more channels to watch; because of the better quality, in a digital home, people were spending 20 per cent more time on TV, and finally the time spent on preferred content had increased.
However, there were a few concerns at the same time too. The individual or bouquet of pay channels pricing was not received well by audiences. The value added services of STBs, such as video-on-demand and interactivity, weren’t used frequently due to lack of education, and the speed of service was a crying need.
The very bright DTH future
At the beginning of his address Pradeep Hejmadi cautioned that he had facts, figures and numbers to bombard the audience with. The next 30 minutes was all about insights in the digital TV viewing habits. Hejmadi took the audience through the changes from April 2006 to August 2008 to indicate the growth of TV owning homes in India from 117 million to 134 million; C&S Homes grew from 71 million homes to 83 million homes, while DTH homes grew from 2.3 million homes to 6.5 million homes.
Digital platforms are here, and Hejmadi explained that the world of focussed targeting was here too. As Krishnan had mentioned, people watched more channels in digital homes, and the time spent had increased too. Hejmadi informed that time spent in digital homes was 20 minutes higher on an average day than that of cable TV homes. Also, channels on lower bands performed better on digital platforms.
The problem came in the fact that fragmentation, which was propounded by the decreasing dominance of the top 10 players, was on the rise. There was a 10 per cent increase in the channels that contributed to 80 per cent of TV viewing. So, where there were 49 channels that were majorly viewed, in a digital scenario, there were 53 channels that formed the chunk of viewing.
Another observation that Hejmadi made was that many cable STB homes had moved to DTH but no DTH homes had gone back to cable STB. Also, cable STB has seen growth largely in the CAS mandated homes. In urban India, DTH and cable STB are very close in penetration. However, lower SECs have seen more DTH growth that cable STB. DTH has picked up very well in rural India, and there is a clear domination of the free-to-air channels there. Channels like Star Utsav have done very well in these markets.
In urban homes, DTH has gained at the cost of cable STB homes, while in rural India, audiences have migrated from terrestrial homes. There is significant digital proliferation in he Hindi speaking metros. While the all India digital penetration is 6 per cent, in Hindi speaking metros, it is at 12 per cent. The top six metros contributed 40 per cent of the digital universe.
Utilising STB as a measurement tool
The set-top box (STB) is an efficient device for the consumer to experience a whole new plethora of viewing choices. For a research agency, it is apparently an efficient measurement tool as well. TAM Media Research officials explained that the STB gave the immediate advantage of a large sample size. TAM’s Sharan Sharma took the audience through the future of measurement and the agency’s steps on utilising the STB for research purposes. “TAM is working on the STB Return Path Data (RPD) to enable the advantage of a large sample size, and hence, enable precision in data. TAM is already in talks with DTH platform owners or service providers to implement the RPD. This exercise is planned to begin in Mumbai with 10,000 homes,” said Sharma.
The RPD advantages are clear. For broadcasters and production houses, it allows testing new programmes, gauge specialised genre better and in marketing activities. For advertisers and advertising agencies, it would allow targeting special segments and in better efficacy in multimedia campaigns.
Sharma informed that the RPD came with four basic concerns and that the immediate solution for that was to work the STB data along with the peoplemeter data. The fusion of these two methodologies could negate certain issues. The first concern was that the STB would continue recording data even if the television set was switched off but the STB was on. TAM peoplemeter’s capping algorithm solved this problem. The second problem was that STB didn’t give individual information. Peoplemeter data again solves this problem. Some of the other concerns with RPD were that analog tuning in digital homes might not be gauged, and that not all STBs are RPD ready.
In all, the TAM Blink session was a typical TAM experience, a peek into the future through the eyes of technology. The information overload would have left quite a few dazed, but the audience looked optimistic on the opportunities that digital TV viewing data unfolds.