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Can Indian advertisers and broadcasters afford a TV ratings blackout, even if it is for a few months?
twitter-logo Ajita Shashidhar        Print Edition: Feb 16, 2014
Can Indian advertisers and broadcasters afford a TV ratings blackout?

Thursday mornings are crucial for Indian broadcasters as they wait with bated breath for TAM Media Research's weekly viewership ratings.  After all, it is these ratings that draw in much-needed advertising revenue. But, of late, the country's only viewership rating agency is the one that has been holding its breath.

The reason? Early in January, the government issued guidelines barring a single company from owning more than 10 per cent in both a ratings agency as well as a broadcaster, advertiser or advertising agency. TAM Media Research is a 50:50 joint venture between WPP-owned Kantar Market Research Services and New York-based A.C. Nielsen. TAM has less than a month to comply.

 Blank Screen
  • Advertising companies barred from owning more than 10 per cent in a TV viewership ratings agency
  • New viewership measurement company to be launched on Oct 1

Broadcasters and advertisers will have no way of measuring viewership in case of a ratings blackout

Kantar had challenged the rule in the Delhi High Court, but the industry is worried. A new industry-backed TV  viewership measurement company, the Broadcasters Audience Research Council (BARC), will be launched on October 1. But, until then, broadcasters and advertisers will have no way of measuring viewership. Can the industry afford to do without ratings, even if  temporarily? Most in the industry are hopeful TAM will get a breather, but in case of a ratings blackout, they will have no choice but to rely on trends. Bashab Sarkar, Senior Vice President (Media), Emami Ltd, says the industry can manage for a couple of months, but any more will lead to confusion. "Ratings darkness would lead to inefficient buying and chaos. I don't think we will get into such a situation. If we do, we have to use our judgement and make projections," says Sarkar. Others in the industry agree. "We have a lot of historic data and understand well how the TV industry operates. We will make temporary adjustments," says N.P. Sathyamurthy, President DDB Mudra Max.  

{blurb}While big broadcasters with a large viewership base may not be so worried, Jehil Thakkar, Partner (Media Practice), KPMG, says a long ratings-free period could hurt smaller broadcasters. "Advertisers will rely on perception and gut feel, and this is where the smaller ones will suffer," he says. "Bigger ones like the Hindi entertainment channels have already created a perception of reaching out to a certain core audience which advertisers can't ignore. They will try to cut ends with the smaller ones due to lack of information."

However, Smita Jha, Leader (Media Practice),  PricewaterhouseCoopers, sees the  row as an opportunity to develop new yardsticks for viewership measurement. "With digitisation, most distribution companies have information on actual viewership and how many homes various channels reach," she says.

"Almost all broadcasters today have a relatively good presence on online and mobile platforms which is not properly measured. A period without ratings would probably force the stakeholders to take other forms of data more seriously."

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