New metrics to evaluate TV programmes needed

New metrics to evaluate TV programmes needed

Last week I wrote about how TV viewership ratings for top programmes and their relative cost efficiency are dropping each year, though television remains the most cost-efficient advertising medium by cost per contact.

While media fragmentation is the main drag on efficiencies, some advertisers, broadcasters and media buyers say audience measurement systems, such as TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd, or TAM, have also been changing their methods and sampling over time. This year, these fraternities hope to push for a relook at the way viewership ratings are captured and the way television ad time is bought.

Some media specialists say what should and will happen is a change in buying metrics—from cost per rating point, or CPRP, to cost per contact. Sam Balsara, chairman, Madison Group, tells me that many advertisers now buy ad time based on CPRP, which only recognizes the percentage of viewers watching a programme and offers no relative comparison, while the cost per thousand, or CPT, contact recognizes viewership as well as whether there is an increase or decline in the base of television-viewing households.

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CPT—used while advertising in print media—should be used more in television and could rationalize ad rates. Beyond metrics, rates in the marketplace are determined by demand and supply, Balsara says.

Lynn De Souza, chairman and chief executive, Lintas Media Group, or LMG, points out that reduced viewership for a programme could also be due to the way TAM captures ratings, which needs to be looked at again.

Her viewpoint: The skews are not so strong in data from Audience Measurement and Analytics Pvt. Ltd and one does not really know what the truth is. But if you go by general public opinion (a dangerous but useful thing) and other establishment-type data such as the Indian Readership Survey, viewership per programme should have gone up, not down, in absolute numbers.

She says the industry is looking forward to better metrics and hoping that a large-scale establishment study—that newly formed industry body Broadcast Audience Research Council will soon be starting—should at least help them get to CPT. “But even that does not measure the ultimate power of the medium, particularly in its more engaging and interactive form that we are all moving towards. I think we should be finding ways to evaluate programmes on the basis of qualitative aspects, affinity, stickiness, blog buzz, etc., as well and there could be a welcome surprise in store for the industry in this area too, this year."

Broadcasters such as Raj Nayak, chief executive NDTV Media Ltd, agree that the CPRP route of buying TV time is flawed and needs to be replaced by newer methods. He lists some factors behind the decrease in levels of television viewership ratings, or TVRs, of the highest rated shows—and why a relook is vital.

TAM initially used to report viewership for six metros. Later, it started reporting other towns. Between 1999 and 2002, it covered 15 market clusters and between 2002 and 2006, it covered 26. Since 2007, TAM is reporting 28 market clusters. Cluster markets such as all India, or Hindi-speaking markets, by definition will be different over the last few years and 1 TVR in 1999 will have a different meaning from 1 TVR in 2004, which in turn will have a different meaning when compared with 1 TVR in 2008. Hence, it is not correct to compare TVR data over years.

The situation has been further complicated by other changes in the methodology and sampling of TAM in the past few years. Various parameters, such as the number of metered homes, number of towns covered and the so-called universe sizes within each market, have seen significant changes in the last few years. The size of the TAM universe for the Hindi-speaking market was 56.6 million between 2004 and 2006 and is currently 89.3 million.

The weightage of metros in the TAM universe has also changed significantly in the last few years. There is no way to figure out what TVRs yesteryears’ big shows—Kaun Banega Crorepati, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, the 2003 Cricket World Cup finals, among others—would have got had they been measured under today’s TAM system. TAM chose not to comment on industry viewpoints.

Beyond making the point that the efficacy of TV as a medium cannot be judged purely on the basis of TVR data, Nayak’s comments underscore the need for more dynamic ways of evaluating TV programmes and buying ad time. Like the medium itself, which is getting more interactive and imaginative, its metrics, too, have no choice but to grow up.

Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor. Your comments are welcome at