India’s TV viewership models face a churn

India’s TV viewership models face a churn

The metrics used to measure TV viewership in India are in the middle of an upheaval, much like the medium itself which is getting fragmented and interactive.

A Broadcast Audience Research Council has recently been set up on the lines of the UK’s Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB) to regulate TV ratings metrics, and it reportedly plans to upgrade TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd’s Peoplemeter system. Also, convergence technologies such as Internet protocol TV and direct-to-home (DTH) are posing new challenges in measuring viewers’ response.

As moves are afoot to overhaul the existing metrics, media planners say it’s time to take some measurement cues from developed markets.

In the West, the big theme in TV metrics is to link media consumption to sales response. The latest attempt is Project Apollo in the US—a survey backed by advertisers including Kraft Foods Inc., Johnson & Johnson Inc., PepsiCo Inc. and Procter & Gamble Inc. It measures both media (TV programmes and commercials) usage and purchases made by households by merging data collected by Arbitron Inc.’s Portable People Meter (PPM) device with the purchase data from ACNielsen Inc.’s HomeScan.

India, too, must adopt such multifaceted models, say media?specialists. Madison Group Inc. chairman and managing director Sam Balsara advocates such integrated measurement models. Bodies such as BARB could advance this cause, he says.

The accent must be on following the individual and not just PPM, say media specialists. “There will be a split amongst multiple platforms and fragmentation will occur at the gadget level. We are standing at a point where legacy TV networks are seeing a threat from budding ones. New technologies are entering and challenges go beyond just measuring CAS (conditional access system) and DTH via set-top boxes," says BAG Films & Media Ltd’s chief strategy officer Amit Ray.

Convergence technologies are redefining TV viewing. TV is now accessible anywhere from various mobile platforms. National broadcaster Doordarshan recently launched its mobile TV pilot with Nokia Oyj by beaming eight of its channels on mobile TV.

Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group’s Reliance Communications Ltd has launched a mobile TV service for its subscribers. Viewership of these media is beyond the ambit of the existing people meters used by TAM.

However, the global models capture the viewing patterns of people 24x7. Arbitron’s PPM, which measures people tuning into individual radio stations and TV channels, is worn like a pager. “PPMs help capture viewing behaviour on the move, while also adapting to newer platforms," says Meenakshi Madhvani, managing partner, Spatial Access Media Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

Another device is a smarter set-top box. “In the US, iTvTrax Llc. launched various products based on the set-top box technology to record the behaviour of viewers," adds Madhvani.

Measurement technologies seek to follow consumers as they move along various viewing platforms. Specially adapted cellphones from US start-up Integrated Media Measurement Inc. , which is seeded by prominent tech entrepreneurs, monitor viewership from CDs, DVDs, video-games, sporting events, portable gadgets and cinema. Market information provider GFK AG’s Mediamark Research Inc. is developing a pager-sized media-measure-ment device for the global market, say media observers.

Multiple metrics exist in advanced TV-viewing markets. However, the focus is towards the development of a common metric, says Madhvani. India has two systems (TAM and aMap), while markets such as China and the US have both the diary method and people meter. In most markets, Arbitron and Nielsen Media Research measure TV audiences via pen-and-paper usage logs filled out by selected consumer panels, as well as devices that passively measure media usage at homes.

Quantitative systems of measurement will move to more qualitative measures of engagement communication impact. “Ultimately, it’s vital to improve measurement systems, before we jump the gun and move on to converging technologies," says SET India Pvt. Ltd’s president Rohit Gupta.

“First, the consumer has to adopt the technology and that will only happen after he’s familiar with it," says L.V. Krishnan, CEO, TAM Media.