The art and commerce of TV ratings
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Sometime late in 2002, in an industry seminar, Lynn De Souza, then a group director in media buying house Lintas Media Group, made a forceful case against the then prevalent television viewership measurement system in the country.
Ten years later, when De Souza is chairman and CEO of Lintas, nothing has changed in the system. The company that measured viewership then, Mumbai-based TAM Media Research Pvt Ltd, is the same. The logistics, the methodology and the way it ran its business, too, are fundamentally the same. So are those directly affected by TAM's output —broadcasters, media buyers and marketers.
And, like De Souza's, a section of the industry's gripe with TAM and its measurement process remains much the same. "It is correct that for the past many years we have consistently been asking that the number of peoplemeters be increased to a level that reflects the correct TV viewing preferences of viewers," she says. "We have asked that the process of viewership measurement be made more transparent and robust but to no avail."
The peoplemeter is an electronic device used to track how and what Indians watch on TV. For close to 150 million TV households in India, the number of peoplemeters is 8,160. This wide gap is perceived to have created imbalances in the way viewing trends are deciphered, popularity charts are drawn and TV advertising budgets (Rs 12,000 crore in 2011) are decided for more than 600 channels currently on air in the country.
"The industry has been besieged with complaints against TAM. The broadcast landscape has completely changed in the past two decades, yet we continue to be guided by a small, corruptible process," says Sunil Lulla, CEO, Times Television Network that includes Times Now and ET Now.
There have also been rampant allegations about breach in the confidentiality of households where peoplemeters are installed; bribing of viewers into watching some channels; and tampering of peoplemeters by cable operators and TAM's own field staff.
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