New Delhi: With the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) introducing the new tariff regime this month, the Executive Council of the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) has issued an advisory, saying that the viewership data provided by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) during the transition period should not be used for media planning, evaluation and buying perspectives.

The Indian Society of Advertisers is the national body of advertisers, which promotes and protects the rights of its members.

According to the new tariff regime, consumers can choose the TV channels they want to watch and pay only for them at maximum retail prices (MRPs) set by broadcasters. The new tariff order is expected to affect viewership and reach of channels as consumers change their entertainment packs.

The new order is also expected to impact the country's distribution and broadcast landscape, the ISA said. In a statement dated 4 February, the agency said the new tariff order was a sudden development and the ability to predict the impact of the event was extremely difficult. Its impact will be significantly different in each region, given their varied distribution and broadcast landscapes.

“The ISA Executive Council therefore advises that viewership data during the transition period should not be used for media planning, evaluation and buying perspectives. It should be noted that the variants in pre and post evaluations will be higher than the usual and will be highly unpredictable. Hence, pre and post evaluation should be avoided for this period. The ISA will work closely with BARC to confirm when the data becomes stable and usable for planning and buying," according to Sunil Kataria, chairman, ISA.

Ashish Bhasin, chairman and chief executive (South Asia), Dentsu Aegis Network Media India Pvt. Ltd, said that during the period of excessive volatility, it was not possible for an effective pre and post comparison of viewership because the data was not stabilised.

“Therefore, it has been advised that the data should not be used for a four to six week window for pre and post comparison. It has no immediate bearing on brands because advertising deals and strategy are done on annual or long-term basis," according to Bhasin.

Last month, BARC, too, had said it will take about six weeks before viewership data under the new regulation becomes measurable.

In a note to its stakeholders, the TV monitoring agency explained that patterns of user behaviour were currently identified on a validation process spanning 13 weeks and based on a fixed number of channels. Benchmarks based on pre-regulation behaviour will not be applicable since respondents will still be in the process of transition to different channel packs and adjusting to a new paradigm. Consumer behaviour can only be assessed once the transition period is over and new norms have emerged 13 weeks after the behaviour has settled down.

Currently dealing with a transition period where most pre-paid consumers on DTH (direct-to-home) service operators have not switched packs, the Trai regulation has also come under the scanner for possibly leading to an increase in household cable bills, according to recent reports. The report was, however, trashed by Trai chairman R.S. Sharma who said that cable bills for consumers will decline.

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