As industry gets set for a new measurement regime, TAM gears for new innings!
The new BARC television viewership measurement service is scheduled to kick off tomorrow (Wednesday, April 29). While there have been multiple measurement providers in the past, for over a decade, TAM, a joint venture of the WPP-owned Kantar Media and Nielsen has been in existence.
There has been some resentment against TAM over the years. Not all the reasons though were well-founded. The sample size was one, but stakeholders were unwilling to pay more for increasing the sample size then. Part of the problem these imported and hence attracted a customs duty. The other peeve was the integrity of data. And another was the frequency in which data was disseminated, a cause of great concern to the news channels.
However, what can’t be denied is the contribution of TAM and its team to the broadcast ecosystem over the years. L V Krishnan, CEO of TAM for the last 15 years, took time off to chat with Pradyuman Maheshwari about life after BARC data gets released… which is tomorrow.
So what happens to TAM after BARC starts releasing its data?
Whether BARC exists or not doesn’t really impact TAM. There are two databases allowing users to look at information and analyis for decision-making. It’s a measure of what one wants depending on business needs. I believe the market is large enough for a BARC and TAM to co-exist as long as we provide service or information that covers the essential needs of a consumer…
But most of your key, high paying clients like Zee and Star have opted out and you obviously need monies to run a service like TV viewership measurement.
Clients can move out of the business and come back again later if the service is crafted back to what their requirements are. There’s no permanency in the evolving, constantly changing marketplace. When you become the only provider of data, bringing in change may be a little slower because there’s a large constituency of users you need to take into consideration before you make changes on a continuous basis. Yet, I think the productiveness of time during the digitisation phase as well as during the-ever changing environmental space of homes moving from analogue to digital in a non-DAS market reflects the fact that as the market has changed, the system has evolved by itself. If a customer feels that there’s another system that provides a better value, they’re all free to go and subscribe to that system. That doesn’t mean that TAM has to close its offices and cannot deliver information that it’s designed to deliver. What TAM needs to do is to re-craft its business because as of today there are different scales of thought that come into play.
One, the mass volume game where I measure every corner of the country and try to deliver that information back to the user’s homes which is what BARC’s mission is…. cover urban, rural, J&K to Kerala, North East to Gujarat. That’s not TAM’s endeavour, we don’t have those kind of funds to do that kind of an enlarged exercise. But, we also realise what’s happening in the environment today. From 2001-11, the number of towns with a one million population has almost doubled from 35 to 55 towns. And if you do the projection for 2015, you’re talking about 62-plus towns in the 1 million market. We believe that you don’t need to reach out to the population, the population is reaching out to markets and areas where there’s growth happening and sustained possibility exists and at the same time where they believe that fundamentally the growth prospects for them and family are much more stronger. Migration is one of the biggest elements here.
So what you’re saying is that TAM will continue as an urban index?
We believe that urbanisation is going to continue to progress which is what we see in the overall data. When you look at the census data of 2011, it talks about a 65-35% of urban to rural where rural has come down from 2001 from 72 to 65%. Either the population is migrating to big urban markets or more and more markets are becoming urban in nature. In that kind of a situation, given the diversity of the population existing in the 1 million plus markets, does that create an opportunity for segmenting of audiences & bringing in understanding of the behavior of audiences toward media?
Will your ownership pattern (of being a Kantar-Nielsen 50:50 jv) change when you adopt this new approach?
Yes, very much, the ownership continues the way it is actually. The service may undergo a sea change. The urban places will be the focus, not the small towns.
So, will LC1 will go off your serice?
Possibly. LC1 may not be in the radar, as also rural. It’ll be a permanent urban market. With the focus on the 1 million plus markets which is where we feel segmentation and targeting are becoming more and more easier
Will GroupM subscribe to this urban-centric service… given that despite being a sibling (owned by WPP), it unsubscribed to your service?
We’ve always looked at GroupM as a customer as much as a Star and Zee. From our perspective if they want to try out a new service, they’re welcome to do so. At the same time, we believe that there are opportunities in the market where we can craft the service to the needs of a new customer and we continuously have a dialogue with the old customers too and as and when they feel the new crafted service is important for the old customers, we’ll make it useful for them too.
When are you announcing the new service?
There need not be an announcement. It’s a gradual evolution. It’s not like one day we announce this and next day stop it. The way we graduated from analog to digital… it’s a continuous process of evolution.
You’re not going to be switching off…
There’s no switching off.. we’re in the data providing area and there are enough customers in the market.
We’ve had heard rumors of TAM selling its service to BARC… some talks initiated by Sir Martin Sorrell…
I’m not aware of it. If that’s so, I’ll go with what the industry wants. If they seek a combination of services provided by TAM with an existing talent pool to assist BARC, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t.
Would you recommend that as…
I don’t see a wall between us and BARC. There’s always a bridge that can be constructed between two service providers if it’s in the benefit of the industry. Ultimately the customer needs to decide.
It’s not just the benefit of the industry, it’s the ego too.
We don’t have any egos that rule. We think it’s the customer and his needs that rules.
As you see the industry rallying around BARC and as you look back on your 15 years, do you think you should’ve also got the same amount of industry attention and monies?
TAM is an industry-supported service.
But it was a joint industry body that endorsed it, right?
I mean price or spend supported. When it was created, it was a formulated idea. There was no seed funding for the formation of TAM. It was primarily from subscription itself. When ownership doesn’t exist and it exists with two multinational research firms, then obviously one expects the fact that they will fund and push the services ahead. The difference between the TAM and the BARC system is that in the latter the industry has put money behind it to fund it, and that’s why they are standing behind it. It ultimately comes down to stakeholders. If they are two giant international research companies, they’d want to put the money behind it, make it run and they’ve done that. From where we were with 750 meter and five cities in 1999-00 to a 12,000 meter running the urban panel, it’s a huge milestone that’s being covered. If the subscription money was higher, we could’ve increased it to even higher levels, but frankly speaking there are no regrets to that now. At the end of the day, the stakeholders of BARC believe that they’ll be able to take it to a much more higher level. No regrets at all.
Do you think that this wouldn’t have happened had the various stakeholders been more actively involved?
There are two parts to involvement. One is from a technical perspective and the other is a price or a value perspective. When you involve yourself in a technical perspective, some recommendations help in making the measurement sharper. When it comes to price or value part of it, it becomes an investment yield question, in respect to sample size. In the case of TAM, the joint industry body took a call in late 1999 saying they won’t involve themselves in the price or value part of it at all. They only wanted to be the advisory technical perspective. There’s nothing TAM can do about it. It had to then depend on the two parent companies to see how much funding can be possible to keep expanding on a continuous basis. There has been all kind of involvement from a technical perspective into even as late as in 2012 when digitisation was around the corner when the AAAI, ISA and IBF appointed a three-member technical committee to work with TAM to work from analogue to digital. From a financial perspective, could there have been better involvement from them? I don’t think we could’ve rejected it if they wanted to come into it. At the same time, they took a call they didn’t want it. So, we couldn’t push them…
Do you think they should’ve taken you as one of the components of BARC’s new measurement system.
We welcomed BARC right from the time they announced it and we also participated in the RFI and then RFP. We’ve no biases on not wanting to be a part of BARC or any industry movement.
There was no response to RFI or RFPs and we expected the fact that there’ll be a discussion on some of the proposals we put forward.
Perhaps there was an issue that the then government had about the ownership of TAM, given that GroupM is owned by one of your co-owners?
I don’t know where the government got involved because it had no role to play on an industry issue. If that’s so then today the way BARC stands, they shouldn’t have allowed that till the information was an all-India service.
Do you think the industry should’ve continued with TAM and let the BARC system settle in?
Well, some of the small and medium level users of data are not taking calls at this time. They believe that both systems have their merits or demerits and they want to look at it from their business perspective at what’s important and what’s not. Many of them are taking a call saying there is a new measurement system coming up which will provide the same measurement that TAM has but will have a larger sample and may have more number of markets to cover up in future.
What could you’ve recommended?
3 to 6 months is a good time frame.
What about the dialogue with AAAI and IBF?
I was never given an opportunity. I was surprised more with the letters even before I could ask for a meeting with the industry body.
Moving on to one of the fears we’ve expressed in MxM, we’ve seen a joint industry body like MRUC which is populated by key newspapers and publications having a problem like IRS. Here you have an industry populated body and when the results came out the members were up in arms. Do you think that’s a fear for the numbers that are going to come up in BARC? You yourself in a sense faced it. Very recently after LC1 and digitization there were some very dramatic shifts of data. Given that and given the IRS example, do you think there’s a reason for fear?
One needs to reflect back on the industry and where it stands. Media is a very peculiar category which isn’t an industry but actually a power centre. It’s close what a government or judiciary is. When you look at it in from that perspective, the key factor governing these sectors is power. If power is the centre, nothing else other than remaining at the top or growing continuously matters. And sometimes you tend to know what the ground reality looks like, but at the same time you don’t have anybody to tell you what that ground reality is. It’s in negativism, demoralizes people, runs into quite a few other conundrums that you don’t want to think about at that point of time. From that perspective, measurement is a harsh reality. Whether it’s for the government and the government doesn’t like it, whether it’s for a judiciary who at least gives it a thought and sees how it can overcome that with some way or the other and for media, definitely it’s not something they’d like to see again and again. The only reason why media needs measurement is fundamentally because 50% of the money in print or 75% of the money in television or 100% of the money in radio all runs through advertising. Or else, I don’t think measurement will exist at all in a public, common platform.
Given the experience that you’ve had in the recent past, reactions to LC1 etc, is there some kind of piece of advice that you would like to give to the BARC folks, as to how they should possibly tackle the media/
Frankly the fact that it’s a service that is funded by industry bodies should take care of things….
But in the case IRS that didn’t happen?
But I don’t think over there, the funding happen with everybody. The stakeholders were only the publishers.
Did it upset you at all that TAM has over the years become the favorite whipping boy of everybody, whether it is members of Parliament, industry folks etc. And the whole degradation of content and television, the sensationalism of news television, everything is blamed on TRPs?
No, it doesn’t bother me because it was expected, because you are the only one who are providing that particular data. What bothered me was the politicization of that particular exercise…
Politicization by the politician or by the people in the industry?
I could say anyone who is doing it.
Who was a tougher evil, industry folks or the politician?
The politicisation couldn’t have happened just because of the fact that the government was interested in the measurement exercise…
So the industry folks…?
Now one can’t easily draw a line, because at the end of the day some of the broadcasters, owners are also politicians and some of the politicians have also become broadcasters, specifically, if you look at the regional level. So, it’s a very difficult to say where the politicization happened.
What are your sentiments like as the transition to the new service happens? TAM and you were after all a hugely influential factor in broadcasting over the last 15 years!
I need to set the emotional aspect of this business aside and look at it very rationally. I can get carried away with emotions of the past but what needs to be look at is the present and the future.
Well, the fact is that it’s about emotions. I have seen you over the last few years and your contribution to the ecosystem has been tremendous but and you have been the the lone and the sole voice of the rating business… in fact things couldn’t have progressed so far without you!?
I’ve been lucky to be in this particular phase, of how the industry has taken shape, and I’m thankful to God for giving me a team that actually saw the same objective as me in driving the industry through a measurement exercise. The team has done a herculean task in the last fifteen years and we have worked very well with the industry for whatever misses that we might have had with them or missiles they might have fired at us, that’s part and parcel of the game. On May 1, I’ll still be in business and there is never an end-of-the-road for anything. There will be a new kind of a craft that we will create…
Any personal high, you would like to look at? Would like to do go on a holiday now?
There was a high point whenever we came out from a meeting, having heard the client, and we offering our perspectives with the client accepting and implementing it and seeing results getting delivered. Beyond that, I don’t think there is any other major high point. For us it’s always been the fact that there is a customer at the other end, we’ve got to listen to him/her and resolving issues. That’s what finally mattered and matters.
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