LV Krishnan, CEO of TAM Media Research, which played a crucial role in helping the Television industry transition from Analog to Digital recently, shares his thoughts on the latest industry developments,Krishnan says he does not agree with the way industry bodies are approaching their members in the run-up to BARC’s beginning. He says TAM is finalizing plans to begin Cross-Media Measurement & Geo-focused TV Audience Measurement, and questions the very premise of the BARC vs TAM debate
What is your view of the television audience measurement scenario in the country as it is poised now and do you expect any change in the near future?
Television audience measurement has come a long way. Today, what users are looking forward to is television in conjunction with other kind of media, which is primarily Digital, and that’s where the future is. So, if someone is re-inventing television audience measurement, it is passé and what is more important is television+cross media, which is online or television+other media together. The focus has changed from just one screen to multiple screens. If we start measuring them, we are going to have much richer data than just the one screen which is already being measured for the last 18 years.
AAAI has formally advised its members to ‘subscribe to BARC measurement studies’ and ‘review and close off existing arrangements’. We understand IBF has done the same. Have any agencies or broadcasters indicated to you that they are going to discontinue their contracts with TAM?
Let me put it upfront - I don’t know why there is so much of discussion and deliberation with respect to a service that is available in the marketplace related to audience measurement. Do you discuss it in this manner when there is information available on Comscore, WAM and multiple other databases to which a user can subscribe on the online media? It’s just that in television, with the largest share of ad revenue, there was one service provider so far and now there is two. So, does it require somebody to provide an advisory about which one to use? I find it really surprising as well as amusing. An individual client or subscriber has enough intelligence and understanding of what measurement data he needs to use for his client or for his business needs. He should decide what he wants or doesn’t want. If there is a choice, he can look at what is really required for him from a data, analysis and insight perspective and drive his business based on that particular data point. Therefore, why should an industry body decide the choice for a subscriber? They don’t tell a subscriber which client they should pitch or acquire. Then why a database?
I am also a little surprised at all the conversations that are happening in the marketplace and in the media. Why should media always look at it from the point of view of one versus the other? Why can’t it be the one and the other? You have multiple products and services co-existing in the marketplace for multiple categories. The minute you see it from the lens of ‘&’ rather than versus, you see the market scope becoming constructive. Why should it be that one should replace the other, two or even three entities can co-exist. If the product or service has a unique feature beneficial to the user, I don’t see why a client will not buy it.
But for a subscriber, spending on multiple subscriptions could turn out to be expensive...
Again, it depends on his needs. If a subscriber has a client who requires information from rural India, TAM is not in rural India, so he may buy another database. But if he requires information that is more concentrated on urban/metro market, he may probably decide on TAM service. There is every possibility that based on the needs and wants of the user, he can buy either one, two or none at all, or tomorrow if a third service happens, probably consider that too.
Do you see any of your subscribers terminating their contracts with you in view of the advisory or have they already moved in that direction...
What is the use of an advisory? Is it that you are going to threaten somebody, force somebody to unsubscribe? That’s unfortunate ... I respect this industry and I have lived with it for the last 20 years. I have seen it growing and collaborated with it in many ways. If an advisory has gone out, it’s really unfortunate and very shameful for an industry of this size to start behaving in that manner. It means that you are saying the members of those bodies do not have the power of intelligence to judge or decide for themselves on what is right and what is wrong ... that too for a service that is being provided independently in the marketplace.
Has the fallout of the advisory been apparent to you in any way?
Maybe or may not be, actually, but I am not worried about it. I’d be stupid to say that my client has no sense in deciding for himself what is important for his business. I respect my client’s judgement and I believe it will be based on what is true value for him in terms of information for his business.
So are you re-crafting your offerings in the near future to a different set of services?
Consumers are now moving to multiple screens. It’s part of our DNA to move in that direction. We moved from analogue to digital at one time on television, it’s now moving from digital television to other digital screens. That’s part of the exercise.
You presented a paper on NCCS at a certain forum in 2012 and proposed that TAM would adopt it...what happened afterwards?
NCCS is just another way of segmenting audiences. I am not sure there is a big advantage of using NCCS or big disadvantage of using SEC because each has its own advantage and disadvantage. The best way is to have both running so that people can decide which one to use for transaction purposes. But, from a research perspective, data then needs to be weighted. So we then took a consensus to keep matters simple, and continue to use the SEC system.
Going ahead, what are the reasons that a subscriber should pick TAM over BARC?
Again, why should it be over BARC? We have always stated that BARC is a welcome move and that’s because I sincerely don’t believe that one is in competition with the other. The market is large enough for A & B to exist together, as long as the product and the service are relevant for a subscriber. Let it depend on what your needs are. If you are an advertiser wanting information at a very customized level, TAM will offer you that, based on the back-end data that we collect from the panel. Two, it’s a very robust panel with a past data of almost around 15 years, so you have trends that can be studied to derive behaviour patterns. The goldmine is in the history of data that is available, unique to TAM. Third, it is data in combination with advertising changes. If you need information on category performance and how it has got exposed to the end consumer, TAM is the place to go to. If you are launching a channel and you are going to see the market change, you need information to understand how consumers behaved pre and post digitization, which is with TAM.
I am a little surprised to read in some media that BARC in its roadshows mentioned the flaws of TAM... why should they be fixated with TAM? TAM as a system has been evolving over 15 years to where it is today. BARC has an entire industry supporting it, so I think they should rather be talking about what are the things they could bring to a user, than get too worried about TAM and its existence in the marketplace. Let the consumers decide.
How do you see TAM in, say, three years’ time?
We are very clear on the direction we want to head in, and we have been working on it for the last year-and-a-half. We think the advertising market is no longer national, it’s more in the regional pockets and some players are taking measures in the right direction. For example, one of them is Star and the other is Zee. Star from the Adsharp perspective and Zee with a tie-up with Amagi have clearly started focusing on markets in specific geographies that could actually help in leveraging advertising value to advertisers. That’s exactly TAM’s perspective - that you can narrowly target customers for communication purposes, and that is what we have moved to... geo-focus measurement. We have worked out a full evaluation for the split beam at Star where each beam split by markets can be analysed in the database. Similarly, with Amagi, the monitoring of split local Advertising on national beams have started to get reported. Another thing we are working on is cross-media; even as television continues to ride the big wave, when you narrow it down to certain demographics, primarily the younger demographics. We are working to tap multiple screens, to be able to see and measure them not just at home which is what is measured today, but 24 hours a day across multiple devices at a horizontal level. Thus we are working towards trying to capture viewing across platforms or devices at a vertical level (from TV to mobiles) and across all hours of a consumer’s ‘conscious’ time at a horizontal level. You are then following the age old principle of advertising - follow the consumer wherever he goes. So TAM’s focus is entirely in that direction. Three years later, probably we will no longer exist as TAM but be called VAM (Video Audience Measurement)!