Do TAM Ratings Serve an Unpalatable Truth?

Less than a year after NDTV broke off with TAM Rating, many Indian broadcasters have walked out of the ratings monopoly. Does this rating serve any useful purpose?

Less than a year ago, NDTV’s decision to sue TAM (Television Audience Monitoring) for a billion dollars sparked many derisive comments. But just two months after a New York court dismissed the case, several broadcasters have walked out of the monopoly TAM system, making the exact same allegations as NDTV had. What has changed in one year? And why did broadcasters not strengthen NDTV’s hands then? The broadcaster had accused TAM of manipulating ratings on behalf of those who paid bribes. The fact is that Neilsen, which owns TAM, is part of the WPP group, which is such a dominant player in the media buying business that many broadcasters probably didn’t dare to take it on. Since that situation remains unchanged, what has emboldened broadcasters, such as Sony, Times Global Broadcasting, Sri Adhikari and probably the Network18 group, to walk out today?

One reason could be that the economic downturn has shrunk the advertising pie, especially since big spenders like the auto sector are badly hit. With less money to go around, some broadcasters with cross-media offerings probably want a bigger share of the revenue. It hardly helps them to be judged by TAM alone, while those affected by lower ad-spends are in the same boat.

While broadcasters squabble over ratings, those who commission surveys and ratings in India know how flawed they are. There is also merit in the argument that 8,000 people-meters for a population of 153 million or more television-viewing households is shockingly low when divided by language, specialisation and interests. The real question is: Why should TAM rating decide ad-spend? Is it because media planners are just too lazy to do real homework and justify their paycheques? Social media, like Twitter, today are ruthless arbiters of public opinion. They provide a minute-to-minute verdict on what is watched and what is rejected by a big multiple of 8,000. Smartphones ensure accurate social media feedback from the entire target market that advertisers want to address. Monitoring social media feeds and using statistical tools to standardise information should provide far better viewer data than a few stupid meters. But that would crack open the business model of the WPP group. The only ones who can break this dominance are the advertisers themselves and economic downturn is a good time for them to do some fresh thinking to reach potential buyers.

Bikramjeet Singh Duggal
10 years ago
8000/153000000....!they she thank their stars that their ratings were even considered for a minute. Surveys can be manipulated, sure, but would hate someone somewhere having exact info of eyeballs per channel unless the whole structure is impervious to foul play... Let the advertisers make a judgement call, I say.
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