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TAM can comply with TV rating guidelines minus cross-media ownership, hints Kantar

MUMBAI: Faced with the prospect of being pushed out of the television rating business due to cross-media restriction imposed by the government, WPP-owned Kantar Media has put up a case justifying the existence of TAM Media Research of which it is a half-owner.

Hinting that it will comply with the guidelines minus the cross-media ownership restriction, Kantar stated that TAM is prepared to scale up its panel size to 20,000 plus people meters as suggested by the government. “TAM, in consultation with the industry, is on the course to achieve its target of 20,000+ meters,” Kantar revealed.

With a panel of 35,000 individuals in 225 cities through 9,600 people meters, India is one of the five largest TAM panels globally.

Kantar also pointed out that it has invested over Rs 150 crore (Rs 1.50 billion) in TAM along with Nielsen India, the other shareholder in TAM, for increasing the panel base and improving the technology and infrastructure. “This investment continues even today,” Kantar declared.

It also bemoaned the fact that cross-media restriction between market research agencies and advertising agencies does not exist in any other matured media market. As per the guidelines approved by the Cabinet, no single company can hold 10 per cent or more paid-up equity in both rating agencies and broadcasters/advertisers/advertising agencies.

“No other market in which cross ownership exists including the UK, France and Spain has imposed restrictions on cross ownership between market research agencies like TAM and advertising agencies,” the research agency stated.

It also warned that implementing the guidelines will leave the industry without any television ratings for the entire year.

“Implementing the guidelines on cross-media ownership would leave the entire industry without ratings for most of 2014, a situation that no one who really cares about the media industry in India could possibly tolerate,” Kantar alerted.

While asserting that TAM was set up 15 years ago at the insistence of the Indian media industry, the WPP-owned research agency said that cross-media restriction will deprive the Indian market of expertise of a global player like Kantar.

“Restricting Kantar and their associates from ownership of a meaningful stake in a rating agency will deprive India of one of the leading global players in the area,” Kantar asserted.

International companies, Kantar said, will help the Indian market to gain from their expertise in television measurement. It will also bring in fresh investments in research and new technology. “Together, Kantar and Nielsen provide TAM services in about 70 countries across the world.”

On the contentious issue of data manipulation, Kantar set the record straight by saying that ratings cannot be influenced by any one stakeholder.

“It is and would be impossible with the ownership structure and the oversight of all stakeholders—broadcasters, agencies and advertisers—for any one stakeholder to influence TAM ratings that are produced by the system, nor would there be an incentive to do so,” Kantar clarified.

It also pointed out that TAM has set up a Transparency Panel comprising five globally acclaimed media specialists to implement global best practices. It also mentioned that TAM’s methodology has been audited by independent academics from the University of Michigan.

Kantar stated that Television Audience Measurement (TAM) is a service used by professionals in the broadcasting and advertising industry and the data is not customised for any individual customer.

In a subtle reference to criticism by the broadcasters about TAM, Kantar stated that TAM data is not customised for any one stakeholder. “TAM data is a common ‘currency’ for television ratings in India. Data is uniform and provided via TAM’s website: data is not customised for any individual customer,” Kantar articulated.

Kantar also clarified that TAM is not a monopoly, “It is a myth that TAM is a monopoly. Over the last two decades, several companies have provided TV measurement data and alternatives exist. However, the fact that the data is a ‘currency’ means that customers typically prefer to have one supplier. It is expensive to set up but there are no legal or other factors preventing competition.”

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