AgVoice | India need more TV rating currencies

As TV in India has evolved from a one broadcast network (Doordarshan) medium to a multi-channel universe, it has gotten increasingly difficult to accurately measure TV audiences. With the coming of TV content to mobile devices and the internet, it’s clear that the old methods aren’t going to work anymore. Because the new methods may involve increased cost for both media and media research, it’s important that advertisers understand the value of the improved accuracy in TV ratings. Improved audience estimates will ultimately allow better calculation of advertising return on investment for TV and other advertiser-supported content viewing devices, and help advertisers better understand what they’re getting for their TV spending.
 
Ratings is intended for anyone who needs more than a superficial understanding of audience research. This would certainly include many people who work in advertising, the electronic media, and related industries. For them, audience data are a fact of life. Whether they have been specifically trained to deal with research or not, their jobs typically require them to make use of "the numbers" when they buy and sell audiences, or make marketing, programming, and investment decisions.
 
Unfortunately the Rating Game just took a turn for the worse in India as New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV) has sued The Nielsen Co. for allegedly manipulating TAM ratings data in favor of broadcasters who 'paid' money. NDTV filed a lawsuit against Nielsen, the premier TV rating company and the parent of TAM-India and has sought damages worth a whopping $1.4 Billion.
The lawsuit lists all the wrongdoings of Nielsen-TAM since 2004 right up to 2012 according to NDTV. At every turn NDTV claims to have been the victim and suffered damages. Given this is a legal issue it would be prudent not to pass any comment on the contents of the lawsuit, however, it is highly relevant considering that within the television industry, 34% (INR 116 billion, USD 2.1 billion in 2011) of revenues come from advertising. For news broadcasters such as NDTV, advertising constitutes 70% to 80% of revenues.
 
As some reports published in media says, the government is planning to launch a probe into the alleged fudging of television viewership data by TAM after receiving several complaints from broadcasters.
 
We need to understand where TAM is going wrong, is this the lower size of samples or they are not covering cities having population lesser then a lacs. why India is not having other currency to get ratings, why even public broadcaster’s such as Doordarshan is not satisfied with the current modes oprandi of TAM.
 
As a television viewer, you hear about it all the time; that ratings for one show are, for another show they are down, and because they weren't high enough for a certain demographic that a show has been cancelled. With all of those numbers being thrown around, there is a lot being hidden from the public, a lot of whom have fallen under the false illusion that the ratings are actually fact. Well I am here to tell you that the ratings are not really fact, but the best guesses that the company in charge of deducing television ratings has come up with. That's right, while they may be educated guesses, the television ratings that a lot of people have taken for granted, are in fact just guesses.
 
The firm in charge of figuring out who is watching what show is the Nielsen Media Company. They work with some television viewers to come up with an estimate on how many people are watching a particular show. In order to do this, they take randomly selected people from the population, and have them either fill out diaries, install television meters on their home television, or have them answer questions over the phone. The random selections are made based on the demographics of viewers, which are broken down by class, sex, age, education, geography and a few other attributes. When one of the selected families accepts the position, they keep track of their shows, or if they are chosen to have a box attached to their TV, they just watch shows as normal, and what they have watched it sent back to Nielsen to help determine ratings.
 
Let's now take a look at how they come up with the numbers for the Nielsen ratings that are released each day to the public. Keep in mind that these ratings are pretty powerful, because if they are too low, a show is going to get cancelled. The ratings dictate how much advertisers are willing to or have to pay for a commercial during that show, and are thus very important to executives at every network. To come up with the ratings, Nielsen has placed approximately 10,000 metered boxes  in households around India. Saying ten thousand sounds like a lot no matter how you say it, until you think about it for a moment and make a comparison to how many houses and televisions there are in India. There are 147 million households with televisions in the country. Now say that one out loud one hundred forty seven thousand households with televisions. Breaking that down even further, it means that less than 0.000001% of the country is measuring the ratings for the other 99.99% of the country. It doesn't even take into account that people in the same house may be watching different shows on different televisions at the same time.
 
Nielsen equates 1 households to be worth 1,47,000 households, and then works backwards to come up with the top rated television shows for the week. So few people dictating which shows are being watched enough to stay on the air is really bad for television, because it then means that shows which are really good, and could be watched by millions, may not be seen by that select 10,000 people in the pool. That is just a small set to take an example from, but a mere microcosm of what is really wrong with the television ratings industry. It is certainly a big business, but it is something that really needs to be fixed in order to present a more realistic picture of what people are watching on television. | By Rajiv Mishra, CEO, Lok Sabha TV
 
About the writer:
 
Rajiv Mishra, CEO, Lok Sabha TV is a broadcast/media professional and founder of Electronic Media Rating Council of India. His contribution in TV Ratings methodology in Europe has been recognised by ITU/EBU in 1996 at Geneva.
 
He did Masters in Broadcasting from IAB, Montreux, Switzerland, MBA in Media Management from MCNY, USA and a Graduate Certificate Course in Multi-Media from UCLA, USA.
 
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not reflect in any way of Adgully.
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