Mumbai: As part of its effort to enter the Indian radio and TV audience measurement market, top executives of the US-based market research firm Arbitron Inc. will meet officials of the Media Research Users Council (MRUC) in Mumbai on Tuesday.
MRUC is a non-profit body that conducts and validates media research.
Any Arbitron-MRUC joint study, should it materialize, will have significant implications for the radio and TV audience measurement market in India because ad rates are determined by listenership surveys of the kind that the American firm conducts.
India currently has two radio audience measurement surveys: TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd’s radio audience measurement (RAM), which is a few months old, and MRUC’s own Indian listenership track (ILT).
Joint venture plans: Arbitron CEO Steve Morris will meeet officials of the Media Research Users Council in Mumbai on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Arbitron’s chief executive officer Steve Morris and Shilen Sagunan, the newly-appointed managing director of Arbitron India, will meet with representatives of MRUC, including G. Krishnan, chairman, MRUC and CEO, TV Today Network Ltd; Sabina Solomon, general manager, MRUC and Anupriya Acharya, president, TME India, the media arm of Rediffusion DY&R Pvt. Ltd and vice-chairperson (radio technical committee), MRUC.
“This is an informal meeting that we will have with Arbitron. Their CEO Steve Morris is in India and they’ve requested for a meeting with MRUC, since we conduct the ILT for radio. This meeting is not with any particular context or agenda,” said Solomon.
However, senior media executives familiar with the development said that a joint radio audience measurement initiative between MRUC and Arbitron could be on the cards. Sagunan declined to comment on the company’s plans.
In countries where it operates, Arbitron has a panel of respondents that carries its portable people meter (PPM). This device detects audio codes embedded in broadcasts and, hence, tracks what the respondent hears through the day. At the end of the day, the user docks the device into a system that downloads the data and sends it to Arbitron.
TV audience measurement could follow since Arbitron’s PPM can detect any kind of audio signal.
Some media owners are optimistic about the possible arrival of another radio audience measurement system.
“Internationally, they (Arbitron) are a very good audience measurement company. We’d certainly like to know their plans for this market,” said Tarun Katial, chief operating officer (COO), Big FM Radio, Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group. However, it remains to be seen if radio operators will be willing to spend on two measurement systems.
“If anyone’s coming to add value to the business (in the form of electronic measurement), we think it’s a positive sign since it’s a departure from the diary method. We don’t care which company does it. Whether its Arbitron, TAM or the MRUC...,” said Nandan Srinath, COO, Radio Mirchi of Entertainment Network (India) Ltd, which currently subscribes to RAM, despite being a vocal critical of its research methodology.
HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint, runs an FM radio station, Fever 104.
Media buyers such as Shashi Sinha, chairman, Lodestar Universal, say there’s scope for more players in the TV and radio audience measurement, provided they come through the right channels and industry bodies.
MRUC’s ILT, the oldest radio audience measurement system in the country, releases listenership data each quarter. It is based on the day after recall (DAR) method, where respondents are queried about their listenership habits a day after actually listening to the medium. The sample size is 4,500 people each in Mumbai, New Delhi and Kolkata.
In contrast, TAM’s RAM uses the diary system. Respondents in Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore (480 in each) log the details of the radio programmes they listen to each day in their diary, which forms the basis for tabulating weekly radio listenership ratings for these markets.
Any association with Arbitron could give MRUC a shot in the arm since many radio operators have been subscribing to RAM.
ILT has not been produced in recent times and the MRUC is hoping to re-design it and is speaking to research agencies such as GfK Mode Pvt. Ltd, TNS India Pvt. Ltd, and Indica Research Pvt. Ltd for this.
Mint had reported on 19 November that Arbitron was looking at entering the Indian market and that the company could set up a back office in Kochi.
Arbitron is shortly expected to announce the opening of this back office, which will service customers in the US and other markets.