New Delhi: The row between broadcasters and TAM Media Research, the audience measurement agency, may be surprisingly close to a resolution, according to several industry executives aware of developments. An amicable end to the row will depend on the ratings agency and advertisers agreeing to a five-point formula offered by channel owners.
The easing of tensions between the two sides hadn’t been expected as, earlier this month, several entertainment and news broadcasters cancelled their subscriptions to TAM and were firm about not using its data, which they maintained was inaccurate and flawed.
Instead, the channels said they would press ahead with their own proposed viewership measurement system under the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC).
But with that likely to take a year or even two to be put in place, advertisers were left with no benchmark by which to allocate advertising expenditure on television, which is close to Rs.14,000 crore a year, and growing at 8-10% a year.
With that much at stake, advertisers pushed for a compromise, executives said. None of them wanted to be named because of the sensitive nature of the talks.
In India, TAM Media Research is a joint venture between Nielsen (India) Pvt. Ltd and Kantar Market Research.
According to people familiar with the negotiations among broadcasters, advertisers, media agencies and TAM, television companies have circulated a five-point charter. For a start, broadcasters are asking for monthly data on viewership. The weekly ratings, they say, often show wild variations for inexplicable reasons. Monthly ratings offer stability, said one person close to the developments.
Secondly, broadcasters are asking TAM to use an increased audience base considering India is adding television viewers every year. For 2013, TAM is using a cable and satellite TV household base of 140 million. Broadcasters feel the number should be much higher.
Broadcasters have also asked the agency to provide audience measurements in numbers and not percentages. Since the number of people metres installed in the country is very small, percentages can be misleading. Television channel executives say that instead of advertising agencies using cost per rating point (since television ratings are measured in percentages) to evaluate advertising rates, they should use cost per thousand (people), which is measured in actual numbers.
A former television channel executive and a research expert said broadcasters are looking for better advertising rates since the number of television viewers is going up.
“So while the rating of a show may have dropped, the absolute number of viewers has gone up. Say, there were 50 people watching a show, a 10% rating would mean five viewers. If 70 people start watching and the rating is 8.5%, you will still have six viewers,” he explained. There has been substantial growth in TV homes in Hindi-speaking markets, so obviously they are interested in absolute numbers,” he added.
Another proposal is linked to audience segmentation. Again, since the sample size is very small, any audience segment that is not captured by at least 30 people meters should not be reported. Lastly, TAM will have to work under the supervision of BARC’s technical committee.
On Thursday, the Best Media Info website reported that broadcasters are likely to return to TAM as they had reached an understanding on monthly data and measurement in numbers rather than percentage.
The industry groups involved—the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF)—said they hadn’t arrived at an agreement as of Friday night.
However, Arvind Sharma, president, AAAI, said: “AAAI, ISA and other advertisers are in close conversation to figure out what solution will work for us and all options are open right now.”
Responding to Mint’s query, Hemant Bakshi, president, ISA, said in a text message that he was not in a position to speak with the press. IBF general secretary Shailesh Shah said there had been no development on the issue.
A TAM Media spokesperson said the organization would not offer any comments on the issue.
Ashish Bhasin, chairman, India, and chief executive, South-East Asia, Aegis Group Plc, a leading media and digital communications agency, said that personally he was in favour of the technical committee of BARC to come up with clearly debated recommendations. “If they are sensible, they should be accepted by the industry.”
Vidhi Choudhary contributed to this story.