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TVT or TVR: Who will solve the puzzle?

BestMediaInfo.com revives the debate in order to find out when the industry will migrate to a singular metric in order to ensure less disruption. Not only is %TVR used for media buying, TVT has disappeared from the rule books of broadcasters for sales pitches and programming evaluations

Niraj Sharma | Delhi | November 16, 2015


Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC India), in the welcome note on its website, says: “Broadcast Audience Research is a puzzle that has vexed broadcasters, advertisers, and advertising and media agencies in India for decades.” True to this, even after six months of launching its television viewership ratings, the metric of the currency remains a puzzle for the industry.

Even as the apex rating agency promises to solve the complex puzzles of broadcast audience research and is leaving no stone unturned to meet its objective, it has left the option to choose TVT or %TVR as the metric for ratings wide open except for the public domain. As an obvious outcome, broadcasters and media agencies are using the metric that suits them best, causing a lot of confusion. BestMediaInfo.com revives the debate in order to find out when the industry will migrate to one metric in order to ensure less disruption, and does it matter in today’s scenario?


It was July 2013 when all the three industry bodies – IBF, AAAI and ISA – had found common ground to settle the issue of data reporting metrics with TAM after a month-long standoff between broadcasters and advertisers on usage of viewership data in absolute terms (Television viewership in thousands – TVT) and percentage terms (Television ratings in percentage – %TVR). The common ground that broke the imbroglio was the decision that the media and public would get to know television viewership in thousands while %TVR would be available to advertisers and advertising agencies as in the past for internal evaluation including planning and buying.

Following this consensus, broadcasters started using TVT as their sole metric not only for public/media usage but even for both sales pitches and programming evaluations. In contrast, advertisers and agencies kept CPRP buying alive with %TVR and resisted CPT buying as much as they can. While TAM felt relieved with this solution, many in the industry called it the beginning of a new confusion.

Cut to today. Not only %TVR is used for media buying, TVT has disappeared from the rule books of broadcasters for sales pitches and programming evaluations. The broadcasters, who made the demand of TVT an issue of survival, were the ones to blink first perhaps for two reasons: one, they did not succeed much in selling inventories on CPT basis due to strong resistance from advertisers; and, second, there was an absence of stringent rules like the way TAM signed NDAs with its subscribers. The rampant use of %TVR except for public usage has raised many questions which that were put by BestMediaInfo.com to key stakeholders and industry stalwarts in order to find out if there is any solution to this seemingly unending confusion.

Why again?

With the launch of BARC India’s data and subsequent inclusion of rural viewership in its All India data, the coverage has witnessed a huge increase which is quite evident with the Rat'000 figure or impressions. Nowhere in the world can one see such large numbers which is roughly 20.5 billion impressions (Rat'000) delivered by TV. Also, the availability of absolute numbers with finest possible details on viewership trends has triggered the question whether GRP data or % share is the right indicator?

When BARC India released its first set of viewership data on April 29 this year, it was in TVT called ‘ratings in thousands’ for public and media, with full data in %TVR available for its subscribers. The rating agency laid out guidelines for fair usage of its data but that was limited to the usage of ratings in the public domain. While the motive behind this was certainly to drive public perception of TV viewership going up which is also a reality, it failed to direct the same growth in viewership for its core purpose of buying or selling. After all, such a huge investment in setting up the agency was certainly not meant for public perception only.

Partho Dasgupta Partho Dasgupta

Why can’t we have single metric especially when BARC India presses for single currency for television viewership? Why should there be TVT for public and TVR for other usages? Isn’t it like an old Indian proverb about the elephant’s tusk? When BestMediaInfo.com raised this issue in a recent interview with BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta, he had said: “BARC India is in the business of measurement and is guided by the stakeholders on all important decisions. It will give its stakeholders the currency metric that they want.”

Where is the catch?

The main reason why the absolute numbers were asked for was because the growth of the medium did not reflect in the TVR measure, particularly over an elongated time frame. Hence, broadcasters could not get better realizations of ad revenues, year-on-year, especially because their viewership popularity was fading in a fragmented viewership scenario. Media practitioners (both buyers & sellers) did not understand how to justify any increase in rates when the TVR was the same or lower.

For example, if a programme was launching at 1.0 TVR ten years back with a smaller number of viewers/reach, it remains the same after ten years if the metric is not different. While this is detrimental for broadcasters delivering more impressions, buyers are benefited with the rating in percentage as they do not have to pay more though they reach more people.

India is an under-penetrated TV market. Only 153 million homes have TV out of the 280 million odd homes in the country. As TV penetration increases, the Rat'000 figure will go on increasing since absolute reach will increase. This may mean that advertisers will pay more as the years go by.

Globally, cost per million (CPM) that is used for TV buying whereas CPRP is used only in India. The CPM rates in India are abysmally low. Hence, broadcasters want to move to CPM/CPT and hence TVT or Rat'000. On the other hand, advertisers feel they have to end up paying more if the trading currency becomes TVT since this figure is rising with increasing penetration of TV. Hence, advertisers want to stick to %TVR.

Is there a solution in sight?

MG Parameswaran MG Parameswaran

Prompted by Dasgupta’s response in his recent interview, BestMediaInfo.com decided to reach out to stakeholders to find out if there was any solution in sight. Among the three stakeholders – IBF, AAAI and ISA – only AAAI President MG Parameswaran chose to share advertisers’ concern. He said, “In India television is still a growing medium with around 30% of homes not having access to television as yet. So %age reporting tends to mask this and broadcasters feel that reporting viewers in 000’s is a better metric. On the other hand, while doing media planning we go by reach, and for that we need GRPs. As a metric, we are used to threshold level GRPs and such measures. Clients and planners need GRPs/ TVRs. So it may be wise to keep both currencies going without throwing out either.”

Putting the broadcasters’ concerns into perspective, a Star India spokesperson said, “An industry's key metric must reflect the degree of engagement with users (width and depth), including the growth in the user base itself. For television, TVM/GVT is the only fair representation of our deep and growing connects with viewers. While penetration of television has grown 2-3X within the last decade, consumption in GRPs shows a flat line trend that is completely misleading.”

“In light of the reporting of TV ratings in Rural India, TVT accurately reflects the 3X growth in measured TV viewership (erstwhile Urban vs current Urban plus Rural universe). By definition, GRP fails to capture this game changing shift and cannot be considered an accurate measure of the industry's relationship with consumers," added the Star India spokesperson.
Vikram-Sakhuja Vikram Sakhuja

Even as these two perspectives were diametrically opposite, an industry veteran and one of the opponents of TVT in the past but perceived to be favouring it now, Vikram Sakhuja, Group CEO, Madison Media & OOH, showed the intelligent way forward. Sakhuja said, “Why does a foot-ruler have inches on one side and centimetre on the other when the standard is the SI system? There is comfort and legacy. TVT and %TVR are two expressions of the same construct. Let both be reported and migrate to one. This will cause less disruption.”

Does this matter anymore in the changing world?

Absolute numbers tells you the absolute reach which is far more realistic than a percentage which is very relative. Today, if we draw a parallel between TV and digital, digital is gaining currency faster because it’s measurable to the end consumer and it’s not giving any isoperic or lumpsum figure about reach in percentage. There are many marketers whose entire marketing metric model is built around absolute measure. So, measuring TV in absolute numbers can only draw a parallel with digital.

If the data is seemingly credible and it tells how many people the marketers are reaching or how many impressions they are getting, it is always more useful and this is what absolute numbers can do. Today marketers are least bothered about rates because the entire marketing ecosystem hinges around measurability. They need to know where their buck is being spent to the last mile.

Subhrangshu Neogi Subhrangshu Neogi

When asked if rates will be any barrier in choosing TVT over %TVR, Subhrangshu Neogi, Director, Head – Group Marketing & Brand, Religare, said, “As a marketer, I would look at the TVT numbers as it is more measurable. Still, I may not end up paying higher rates because not only the viewership but the overall viewer engagement and attention span also have become fragmented. And also, it depends on me as a brand to put money where my target audience is. Today we have a lot of choices and it’s not a very linear media planning strategy because the decision making journey of the consumer has also become very non-linear. Having said that, I would not mind paying more for the same media if everything fits into my plan.”

The fact is that television is not a must-have medium any more for many marketers. It is a buyers’ market and not a sellers’ market. If an advertiser feels the pinch of high rates from television, they have other options these days. There are many brands that are launching mega campaigns only on digital these days. Even the heavy spenders in the FMCG category have moved on from traditional media and begun tapping new mediums to connect with their consumers. HUL’s Kan Khajura Teshan campaign which is entirely on mobile is a great example of this. While a section of marketers is resisting media buying on TVT, many feel there is a need for robust viewership data in absolute numbers.


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