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Life without TAM: Not so dark really!

BestMediaInfo.com talks to senior professionals from the broadcast industry, media professionals and clients to see how the situation is likely to pan out over the nine weeks of TAM data being temporarily suspended

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | October 22, 2012

Television channels without ratings! It was always thrilling to think about it. But the almost unthinkable became a reality for the television broadcast industry and media planners since last week and which will continue for eight more weeks. Over the years, TAM ratings became the lifeline of the broadcast industry and advertisers. TV channels are now groping in the dark without getting any sense of their performance and hence losing the opportunity to fully encash on the festive season for higher ad revenue. TAM data is the only available currency for media agencies on which they do planning and buying for advertisers.

Tarun Katial

When we talk about day-to-day planning, the nine-week temporary suspension of TAM data is actually huge and is bound to create chaos. However, Tarun Katial, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd (RBNL), has no apprehensions. He said, “Given the fact that we are in the season, this could create debate between advertisers and broadcasters. However, having said that, the reality is that good quality content would always rate consistently and hence advertisers can be assured of the return on investment that they considered when they got into the deal with a broadcaster.”

Sanjay Tripathy

Sanjay Tripathy, Executive VP and Head - Marketing, Products and Direct Channels at HDFC Life, echoed Katial’s views and backed the move to defer TAM ratings. He said, “According to data from the I&B ministry, overall 77 per cent cable TV digitisation has already been achieved in the four metros. We see big spenders such as FMCG, consumer durables becoming very active in media during the upcoming festive season. However, I do not foresee advertisers getting impacted with this move, as the four metros have a sizeable population already being converted to digitisation. The move to defer release of TAM data is a fair practice that is being followed and will assist in providing parity on data that will be reported post these nine weeks.”

Mona Jain

Be that as it may, life in a media agency is not going to be the same during this period. As Mona Jain, CEO, Vivaki Exchange, believes, the suspension of TAM data will definitely create disruption in the process of work, especially when pre-Diwali spends increase and advertisers look at high saliency plan with a mix of regular and impact properties. “It’s also the lifeline of buying team especially in case of advertisers where CPRP targets are closely monitored and are at almost weekly basis. The idea of having no ratings and having to take decision without them is a not a comfortable position to be in - especially for some new programmes and shows which go at a premium,” commented Jain.

Sudha Natrajan and Raghav Subramanian

Sudha Natrajan and Raghav Subramanian, Co-Founders of The Media Consultancy, remarked, “Unprecedented situations call for unprecedented actions. Yes, this has never happened before and having been media practising professionals for several years, it seems like a very difficult situation to perceive.”

In the absence of TRPs, if someone is losing, another party must be at the receiving end. When asked if this situation gives media agencies an upper hand in negotiations, Natrajan and Subramanian said, “Well, what tends to happen is that there is a certain amount of speculative buying that happens on big impact reality properties during peak festive seasons. Having no data does give room for longer negotiations, but it finally is a supply and demand equation. As secondages start getting filled up in a hurry during this season – as most male targeted brands have limited options to explore – the channels will end up getting the rates that they want/deserve, too.”

Putting a broadcaster’s perspective, Katial said, “Advertisers choose channels based on the channels past performance over 8-13 weeks. Whether it’s a property sponsor or an advertiser buying air time, the yardstick of measurement remains the same. Secondly, many broadcasters always have higher quality programming aligned to the October-December season and therefore the reason for viewers to watch is even higher. Given the above, there is no real reason why an advertiser should expect to get a lower rate from a broadcaster.”

HDFC Life’s Tripathy is also of the same view. He said, “I do not feel this situation will create any imbalances in the market’s functioning as there is always historic data to rely on. Moreover, as I mentioned earlier, the upcoming weeks will see big spenders getting active, who already have annual deals in place.”

Elaborating on the buying of different slots, Jain said, “The regular slot buys can actually be bought with the learning we have of their viewership pattern as it does not change too much for the established shows. There are also deal understandings which could protect advertisers in case of drastic deviations. Agencies and clients do business with broadcasters on a regular basis and I am sure they are sensitive to the client’s delivery objectives, and in case of any shortfalls they will compensate and make good.”

“Eventually the channels will be gaining hugely from this transition to digitisation and I am sure they will be amenable to discussions which is a win-win for all,” remarked Jain, “After all, the key industry bodies representing broadcasters, agency and clients, I am sure, came together and took the decision of blocking ratings for each one’s benefit.”

Katial cites larger issues when TAM data returns. He said, “Once Phase 1 of digitisation is complete it will still take TAM time and effort to ensure that their sample is still representative of the digitised universe as there could still be pockets of non-digitised areas in a DAS market. Until there is absolute certainty of this measurement accuracy, TAM data would be suspect. Overall, digitisation by itself will not solve the larger issues that we are seeing with television viewership measurement from TAM. Unless there is a conscious effort on the part of TAM to improve accuracy of the system, especially genres like English Entertainment and Business News post-digitization, this key issue will continue to plague the industry.”

Tripathy added, “Everybody is concerned with stability of data that will be available post this activity, and a nine-week lead time will ensure this. Most importantly, this activity will serve as a testing ground for the industry to speculate the turbulences that can be expected when the entire country goes into a digitisation mode.”

For media agencies, it will bring a lot of work thereafter according to Jain. “We will have nine weeks of data to study and do post-buy analyses. Implications and comparisons will be evaluated and recommendations will be looked at with rounds and rounds of meetings and discussions with clients and broadcasters,” she explained.

“There will be hiccups. The digitised universe needs to be redefined properly. It will be exciting. We are looking forward to reading the data,” remarked Natrajan and Subramanian.

The jury is out and will be so till mid-December when TAM data is back. Till then, there will be many views based on perceptions of which side you are from.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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