Broadcasters cry foul, leave TAM high and dry in fast-paced endgame

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It was a day when the pawns moved rapidly on the chessboard – and TAM was left gasping. On June 6, the day when BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) – a joint industry body set up by Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) with the specific purpose of designing, commissioning, supervising and owning India’s Television Audience Measurement System – issued the global Request for Proposals (RFPs) for a new broadcast measurement system, many leading television channels opted to end their subscription to TAM or wrote to TAM Media Research expressing their intent to withdraw their subscription.

It’s reliably learnt that they took the step following an advisory issued by IBF to member channels suggesting that they make a decision in their best interests.

So far, three television networks that run 14 channels have withdrawn from TAM data starting June 6. TAM Media Research CEO LV Krishnan confirmed to Newsroom about the receipt of intimation letters in this regard from NDTV Group, Multi Screen Media and Times Television Network. NDTV Group runs NDTV 24×7, NDTV India, NDTV Profit and NDTV Good Times; Multi Screen Media runs Sony Entertainment Television, SAB TV, Sony Max, Sony Six, Pix and AXN, while Times Television Network runs Times Now, ET Now, Movies Now and Zoom.

Newsroom has also learned from highly placed sources that Star India and Network18 have withdrawn or initiated the process for withdrawing their TAM subscription. However, it could not be confirmed directly from the two networks at the time of filing this report.

Talking to Newsroom about the decision, Sunil Lulla, Managing Director and CEO, Times Television Network, said, “It’s not a sudden decision. Rather the issues with TAM have existed for more than two to three years and it has failed to respond to the issues raised by broadcasters.”
When asked if the timing was correct keeping the phased implementation of 10+2 ad cap in mind, Lulla said, “This is our strategic business decision which is not directly related to the public and I would not prefer to comment on any of our business decisions.”

A former broadcasting industry senior official, who is clued in to the developments, said on condition of anonymity, “All are very unhappy with the kind of responses to issues with TAM.”
Responding to the accusations of being unresponsive, TAM CEO Krishnan vehemently claimed that not a single issue raised by its clients or any broadcaster has gone unheard or unsolved.
A highly placed source in NDTV which had filed a lawsuit against TAM in New York Supreme Court about 10 months ago, told Newsroom that all the broadcasters “indirectly supported us on the fact that complaints and issues with TAM increased post our lawsuit which ultimately resulted in such an extreme step”.

While BARC is still nine months away from kicking off its own television audience measurement currency, the 10+2 ad cap will come into effect from October 2013, forcing all broadcasters to hike their ad rates. On condition of anonymity, a highly placed official in a leading television network told Newsroom that all other members of IBF and also those of NBA (News Broadcaster Association) may follow the suit within a week or two. The official affirmed that such a step might offer a level playing field to all broadcasters instead of the highly fluctuating data provided by TAM, especially after the start of digitisation.

Another senior authority of a leading television network said, “The accuracy and credibility of TAM data have been in question for long but it depends on the conscience of every broadcaster whether it chooses to continue with TAM or not. The broadcasters’ body will be meeting soon on this issue and we will go by the joint decision whatever it may be.”

When asked if TAM will continue reporting the data of non-member channels, Krishnan said that the “show will go on until we get instruction from the industry body or our promoter companies”.
Some media observers pointed out that even if TAM continues with its research, it may not be relevant for advertisers and ad agencies if the broadcasters – being the largest stakeholders – do not use it. As the head of one of the channels that has withdrawn from TAM said, “All three parties – IBF, ISA and AAAI – are part of an ecosystem and now that the equilibrium has broken, we will have to see how each party will react going forward.”

Newsroom
Official Statement Released by TAM India

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