Lets Abuse TAM Data: Indian TV Industry

An example that illustrates how one should be careful when reading television audience ratings data.

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I read an ad in Mint about UTV-Bloomberg claiming that they have grown to no. 2 in the English Business News Space.

Lets Abuse TAM Data

Surprised I decided to look closely:
Well in the Male CS 25-44 (all SECs) Segment All India market they had slightly greater channel share (relative) than NDTV Profit and ET NOW according to TAM. For the uninitiated channel share is the product of no of people who watched at least one minute ( reach) and the average time spent by them.

I have three issues with this kind of abuse of TAM numbers :
1. The target for English Business News Channels is much smaller than the one used in the ad. Perhaps CS 25-44 M SEC A and B in 10 lakh plus towns would be more plausible.

2. The use of relative shares is again a misleading measure. In reality the absolute of share of viewing of these channels is minuscule to total television viewing so how many combined minutes of television viewing does this really mean?

3. The third is with the use of TAM for such data.English business news is a very niche segment.
a.) This genre is consumed by respondents who are hard to recruit for high involvement research like TAM.
b). Besides consumption is outside the home ( at public places, offices etc).
c.) The sample sizes for these channels is so low that these fluctuations may be due to sampling errors.

But the saddest part is that our media planners will continue to spend advertising money based on these irrelevant numbers and think they are making scientifically correct decisions.

I hope students of media/ advertising /marketing can learn this before going to the industry.

Author: harshT

Assistant Professor at the Missouri School of Journalism

7 thoughts on “Lets Abuse TAM Data: Indian TV Industry”

  1. Hi Harsh,

    Avoiding getting into the broader debate on the TAM methodology, one needs to point fingers at the way the data is being used by the industry- especially by the media owners.

    For the last 5 years especially, on the back of continued fragmentation and genre dilution, media owners have relied on scale to sell networks. News, in this scenario, has probably seen the most new entrants and the viewer can hardly be blamed for not being loyal.

    I believe that the metrics, and their use for evaluating a news channel, English or Hindi, business or general, should be two-

    1. Relevant Audience- a basic indexing of the TG on the universe- the first thing any media planner learns.

    2. Loyalty- Evaluating the channel not just for 4 weeks but for a longer period, normalizing by eliminating events like terrorist attacks, the budget, etc (a good optimizer comes in so handy here)

    We cannot expect the media owners to not be ‘smart’ and twist data to be heard (just like your example). What we can pray is for the planner to retain his common sense.

  2. Abhijit,
    Well said – you echo all the reasons because of which I left the industry :

    I always feel that owing to low samples news channels anyway use weekly data from the peoplemeter – so minute by minute goes for a toss – now that can be simply done by a recall survey done once every 3 months with some additional sweeps.

    But this is a problem with media industries worldwide!

  3. Each news channel spends lakhs of rupees to commission massive surveys around which the build programming (the elections, the recent UPA-II report card etc.). If they stopped with their Indian crab mentality of pulling the other down instead of escaping together, they would pool in resources to commission an independent sample survey basis agreed upon parameters. The consistent crib on TAM has been the abominably low number of sets for a country the size of India. A survey that has 1-2 lakh respondents (not implausible if you look at survey sizes already being undertaken) could be better way of assessing viewer choices.

    Secondly, this obsession with high involvement data collection is pointless. Millions of dollars worth of decisions are taken in multiple industries using simples responses. In fact by having an overall understanding of which news channels a particular viewer watches it prevents the kind of abuse you talk about – you can’t slice it by “Oh, the terrorist attach was watched most on my channel”, “but the IPL controversy was most watched on mine” and get into stupid and misleading conversations.

    Thirdly, it improves quality of news content because you are no chasing mindless TRPs on a short program to program or issue/breaking news format and focus on what is good/preferred at a broader, overall level.

    But of course, Indian crabs are, after all, Indian.

  4. @ Neha Rao: Yes of course Ormax Media’s is one of the efforts but even they are not proposing an alternate exposure metric. They are proposing one on engagement. Plus they are focussing on GEC and Films etc for now.

    @ Himanshu – Point 2 and 3 are separate
    Point 2 is about small percentages being a misleading currency which planners should know how to translate into minutes

    Point 3 well they should look at TAM along with a host of other data ( TGI, AMAP) . Also this reslt was for one week – a week in which Bloomberg saw a rise in relative share. If there are fluctuations week after week – then it is indeed due to small samples and resulting errors

  5. Hi Harsh,

    I believe your 1st point totally makes sense (as there is very little benefit to advertising in an english business news channel for below 10 lakh towns).

    But regarding your 2nd and 3rd points, are you trying to say that just because one can’t measure niche channels correctly, one should not rely on TAM numbers at all?

    From an unbiased media researcher point of view, i may even agree with you. But if you were a media planner and CNBC TV18 comes to you and says that week after week, it is consistently number 1 in english business news channels category from TAM data and therefore demands a premium; Would you then say that the TAM is a flawed model and you would not pay any premium to CNBC TV18 over let’s say NDTV Profit?

  6. Going back to your point of new, innovative methods of measurement and behavior pattern… Its a wonderful opportinity for the likes of Ormax to prove their mettle… Its bound to be a long, tedious ride… But if and when they do come up with more of their ‘alternate’ methods, we might see a change in the current (read: redundant) buying/planning patterns too!!

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