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Why TAM Joined BARC


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As BARC and TAM combine forces to form a meter management company, we look at what made the   two television measurement bodies come together – was it a case of one needing the other or was it just that BARC needed TAM as much as TAM needed BARC?




BARC India and TAM India form a meter management company to supply raw data to BARC India’ – even as this made the headlines on August 27, 2015 it caught very few by surprise. For most people in the industry this was a move waiting to happen “one day or another.” Looking back, the genesis of BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) as a television audience measurement system lay in taking on TAM Media Research in the measurement game as BARC was seen to be the solution to the alleged short-comings of TAM – data inaccuracies, data integrity, monopoly etc. With BARC officially becoming a reality on April 29, 2015 and releasing the first set of data using a new matrix to measure television audiences, a common chorus heard across the media fraternity was that there could only be one currency to measure television audiences in India and that was BARC. Interestingly, TAM steadfastly maintained that there was space for more than one player in the system until the announcement of the formation of a new meter management company as a joint venture between BARC (formed by broadcasters, advertising agencies and advertisers) and TAM India (a joint venture between Nielsen and Kantar) was announced on August 27, a mere four months down the line. This JV will run the meter operations and will supply raw data to BARC India, but leaves the question hanging as to what prompted BARC and TAM to come together to form a JV in the first place?


From Competitors to Partners

Elaborating on the possible reasons behind the JV, Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India said, “One of the biggest factors was that the very existence of two different currencies with distinct measurements existing in the current market was creating confusion in the industry. So there was a strong need to eliminate this ambiguity and thus ease ratings interpretation for broadcasters, advertisers and agencies. As a result of this JV, going forward, there will be a single currency in the market and it gives the broadcasters, advertisers and agencies more robust measurement of TV ratings.” Dasgupta added, “This is an era of cooperation and the industry needs to come together and collaborate to do what is in the best interests of all stakeholders which was also one of the factors in this JV.”


Reiterating this, LV Krishnan, CEO, TAM Media Research says, “Its only logical that there should be one transaction currency prevailing in the industry. So we got our minds came together and said let’s talk and see how we can work together and we decided to combine the two services to make it into one big panel – BARC and TAM have together has resulted in a super big panel for the benefit of all concerned.”


Ground Realities

The meter company will have the meter assets and panel management operations of the present BARC India and TAM India panels, which will be jointly owned by BARC India, Nielsen and Kantar with management control resting with BARC India (51:49). With 22,000 BARC meters and 12,200 TAM meters already on the ground, the combined strength takes the total meters to over 34,000 meters across the length and breadth of India and provides a much better representation of what India is watching. The main point to be noted here is that TAM meters will be redeployed based on BARC sampling plan and the ratings will be computed, reported and disseminated through BARC India’s software. A big complaint against TAM was the issue of data integrity and placement of the meters. BARC believes this will be solved once the meters are redeployed and relaid as per the BARC sample design. The additional meters also helps BARC achieve its target of seeding 50,000 meters, by the fourth year of operation, in quick time.


The other point of interest is the two different technologies used by BARC and TAM. While BARC believes that the technology it uses is superior – Watermarking technology, in which a code is inserted into the audio beam of the channel and this code is later picked up by the BARC meter – as against TAM’s technology which relies on frequency matching. The JV puts to rest one controversy beyond doubt – it concedes that TAM’s meters are modern and not as old as presumed earlier. The data from TAM meters will be picked up and used as a different data set. So in effect, this means that the different technologies will be in use and two different data sets will be generated which will then be fused at the audience data level. Dasgupta says, “This happens in many parts of the world. We have also brought in consultants from developed markets to help us fuse this data. So two technologies will co-exist yes, but the two data sets will be fused based on our methodology.”


TAM’s Krishnan says, “It doesn’t mean that one technology is superior to the other. Signatures are as useful as watermarking technology because if somebody has switched off watermarking from the channel, the audio signature can still help you to decipher which channel is being watched. In US, where  Nielsen operates, they do water marking plus signature together. Both technologies complement each other and it’s not either or situation at all.”


Data Integrity and Transparency

Since BARC started putting out data four months ago, it’s been seen that a lot of the data has been similar to TAM data. Krishnan says that the sampling plan from a coverage perspective is similar, i.e. for urban markets, the data should look alike. However, Dasgupta refutes this claim saying, “At a macro level, when you have a bird’s eye view, the data may look similar but when you get into nuances, there have been changes. For example, in regional markets there have been a lot of changes, but some of the national channels may not have seen changes. People who are practitioners, who know how to slice and dice the data, they see a lot of change.” On the other hand, media planners and broadcasters, particularly of niche channels, have raised a red herring as far as BARC data is concerned. Media planners, on condition of anonymity, have said that at times they have not been able to make sense of the data from BARC thus hampering their media plans.


Looking at the transparency issue, BARC says that it has been vocal about all its developments and constantly communicates with the industry and its partners on all developments including where the sample would be, to what kind of meters would be drawn, to the weekly reporting of data to all the other rules. The extra panel that will be deployed will also follow BARC standards of integrity and BARC’s systems and processes will be followed to ensure that the “right hand won’t know what left hand is doing.”


Since, all the TAM meters will redeployed as per BARC sampling design and also the new meter company will completely be led by BARC management, BARC claims the same level of transparency as maintained earlier. With over 30 tie-ups with partners across key processes of meter management, panel management, data DQA, IT hardware and software, Playout monitoring etc., data integrity is ensured as different pieces of data is present with different partners and no single partner or entity is privy to the entire data. Maintaining the same standard, this meter company will be another supplier to BARC. As part of the JV terms, the meter management and panel management will be a part of the meter company and its related partners will now operate with the meter management company. BARC believes that with these processes in place, the same standards of data integrity will be maintained.


Leveraging joint strengths

Besides putting forth a single currency, there are other advantages that this JV can leverage. Says  Krishnan, “TAM does not have the financial bandwidth to expand but BARC does. However, TAM has skilled manpower available with over 15 years of experience whereas BARC is just starting up. The same manpower can be better utilised with a larger financial availability to work on a project which will help the industry in a better manner. The systems and processes are well-oiled and therefore there are a lot of learnings from the market already available. That knowledge can be transferred to BARC so that those hurdles which could only have been sorted in the long-term could instead easily be overcome much sooner.”


Also expected are some cost synergies, the modalities of which are still being worked out. There will also be changes in some processes. BARC has based its sample design based on NCCS – New Consumer Classification system which classifies Indian consumers on the parameters of education and consumer durables (from a pre-decided list of 11) present at home. The parameters of the current SEC classification used by TAM since 1988 were the occupation and education of the chief wage-earner of the family. BARC says that NCCS is well defined and provides better demographic profiling when compared to SEC. BARC’s design is also based on 2011 census as a base for its establishment study. Says Dasgupta, “What we are trying to do is trying to see what we can learn, what we can use and then make it work with the kind of processes or guidelines that we have formed ourselves. We have just signed an understanding; we are now working on how to integrate the whole thing. It is being ironed out.”


The road ahead

Looking ahead, BARC will be launching its much awaited rural ratings which will capture and report ‘What India Watches’ by end-September. Next in line would be digital measurements i.e. broadband, mobiles, tablets and OTTs. Another goal is to continuously keep investing into developing cost-effective technology and further bringing down the costs. The Broadcast India survey which will be the next Universe Estimate is also being launched in September.


For the moment TAM will continue to release television ratings for a limited period of time. It will also continue to focus on S-group, Print and Radio measurement along with their TV AdEx services. TAM is also betting big on Video Audience Measurement (VAM) which is being released by a panel IMRB has put together and is a combination of television plus online video viewing on a continuous basis. The data is expected to be ready on a six-city level basis (Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad) by the end of September and will be ready for preview by clients in early October. The data will be used by the industry at two levels – transactional and customised, which in turn will be used by clients for their internal strategies, Krishnan says, “This is basically the direction where it’s headed. A consumer is continuously fragmenting himself and accessing touch points, from one platform to another platform, which are varied in nature during an 18-hour band. TAM will be looking at measuring as many touch points as possible.”


Meanwhile, the industry is watching closely to see whether the BARC-TAM partnership will eventually fall in place like pieces of a Rubik’s cube or end up like mismatched spouses in a bad marriage.


Feedback: simran.sabherwal@exchange4media.com

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