Ahead of litigation, TAM part-owner Kantar takes on govt + A possible solution to the mess

21 Jan,2014

By A Correspondent


So now that it’s formal that TAM or either of its joint owners were not selected for the critical technology vendor, what’s the path ahead for the measurement body?


Will it shut shop on February 14 or 15, after the completion of 30 days post the  guidelines were issued? Unlikely. In fact, in all likelihood TAM will take the government to Court (see our report: http://www.mxmindia.com/2014/01/as-time-ticks-on-measurement-guidelines-will-tam-take-mib-to-court/). However, according to information received by MxMIndia, the objective is first to put the pressure on the government and stakeholders through media that’s not unfriendly and some heavyduty lobbying.


Text of the ‘advertorial’ ad inserted in some newspapers:


The Fact about Television Audience measurement

1. The government has issued guidelines regulating television rating agencies in India. These guidelines specify that no legal entity can have 10% or more equity in both rating agencies and advertising agencies. Moreover these guidelines impose a requirement on existing rating agencies to comply within 30 days and lays down penalties for non-compliance.


2. ‘Television Audience Measurement’ is a service used by professionals in the broadcasting and advertising agency industry to measure the size of the audience for television channel or campaign.


3. TAM Media Research (TAM) was created 15 years ago at the request of the Indian advertisers, advertising agencies and broadcasters. They suggested that Kantar and Nielsen – the two global leaders in television audience measurement – come together to form a joint research company to provide measurement data, using their global expertise and technology. The identity of the partner companies are displayed prominently on the TAM website. Together Kantar and Nielsen provide TAM services in about 70 countries across the world.


4. TAM data is common ‘currency’ for television rating in India. Data is uniform and provided via TAM’s website: data is not customized for any individual customer.


5. It is a myth that TAM is a monopoly. Over the last two decades, several companies provided TV measurement data and alternatives exist. However the fact that the data is a “currency” means that customers typically prefer to have one supplier. It is expensive to set up there are no legal or other factors preventing competition.


6. The involvement of international parent company in TAM was demanded by Indian advertising industry: their expertise provides the latest technology, investment and expertise in television measurement. Over the 15 years of its existence, TAM and its shareholders have invested over Rs 150 crore in increasing the panel base, and improving the technology and infrastructure. This investment continues even today.


7. Currently TAM covers a panel of 35, 000 individuals in 225 cities through 9,600 people meters, making India one of the 5 largest TAM panels globally. TAM, in consultation with the industry, is on course to achieve its target of 20,000+ meters.


8. TAM’s methodology has been audited by independent academics from the University of Michigan. The general panel operations are audited by independent external consultants.


9. TAM has also instituted the TAM Transparency Panel: this is constituted by five globally acclaimed independent media specialists who rigorously apply global best practices to verity TAM’s commitment to data quality, panel home security and resolution of customer grievances.


10. No other market in which cross ownership exists, such as the UK, France and Spain, has imposed restrictions on cross ownership between market research agencies like TAM, and advertising agencies. Restricting Kantar and their associates from ownership of meaningful stake in a rating agency will deprive India of one of the leading global players in this area. It is and would be impossible with the ownership structure and the oversight of all stakeholders – broadcasters, agencies and advertisers – for any one stakeholder to influence the TAM rating that are produced by the system, nor would there be an incentive to do so.


11. Implementing the guidelines on crossownership would leave the entire industry without ratings for most of 2014, a situation that no one who really cares about the media industry in India could possibly tolerate.


Sample this from an interview of Eric Salama, chairman and chief executive of Kantar, to Shuchi Bansal of Mint: “In no other market in the world where the provider has an equity stake from broadcasters and agencies-such as UK, France, Spain-has this been raised as an issue. Even Mediametrie which is rumoured to be in conversation with Barc (Broadcast Audience Research Council) is partly owned by broadcasters and agencies. Will that be an issue for the government or Barc? They (Mediametrie) have no meaningful experience of operating outside France. And I understand they are about to lose the one minor contract they have outside France, that of Morocco. With all that, does it strike you as the choice for the future?” (see link: http://www.livemint.com/Consumer/pTUcSWMPOR5k TjDuHSk86I/
).  Mr Salama acknowledges that TAM will be disqualified if the guidelines go through.


In an interview with Anant Rangaswami for CNBC-TV18, Mr Salama was more direct:

It’s not a good idea because it’s not something that is an issue in India, and it’s not an issue for us anywhere in the world. It’s a red-herring that has been introduced. Even one of the companies that BARC wants to work with, called Mediametrie, has got an ownership stake from Publicis and Omnicom. Now, I don’t think that Publicis and Omnicom’s ownership stake in Mediametrie affects what Mediametrie does from a professional point of view. And what TAM does is not affected by the ownership stake either. There is no country in the world which has got this kind of cross ownership. It’s going to limit competition; it’s going to mean the number of companies that are able to do it is much less. And it means that India isn’t getting the best in terms of what’s available from around the world. (See link: http://www.firstpost.com/brands/kantars-eric-salama-wouldnt-be-good-for-tv-ratings -collapse-in-india-1348739.html?utm_source=ref_article)


A quick look at Mediametrie’s shareholding did indicate a stake that Publicis has in it, but it’s below 10 percent, that’s permissible by the Government of India guidelines (see link: http://www.mediametrie.com/mediametrie/pages


What’s the way out of the mess: A senior industryperson who spoke to MxMIndia insisting anonymity indicated that the guidelines concern only the vendor entrusted with the measurement responsibility. In the proposed scenario, BARC is the measurement body which will subcontract the measurement task to multiple bodies. Hence, BARC can even entrust the task of measurement in the interim to TAM which can undertake the task in its guidance.


That way, the guidelines will be followed to the T, and the industry will have no blackout zone.  This will allow ease of entry to the new measurement regime.  Since the proposed audience measurement system is not plug-and-play as in there is no integrated solution and BARC will need to deal with multiple vendors and put the jigsaw together, a TAM-administered system allows for some respite and a no-blackout period.


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