With all due respect to TAM, my often echoed grudge with the Indian media industry has been its inability to look beyond plain counting. As an industry, it has been extremely focussed on reaping rewards from or critiquing the TAM panel in India, comparing it with AMAP (the other metering service) and advocating the need for more and more people-meters. Especially if you are a mass entertainment television channel, TAM has remained your holy grail for selling air time, understanding audience behaviour, making programming strategies, determining promo plans and whatever else was needed to be done. Thursday evenings (when the new data got updated) has long since been the day of reckoning for television channels. Even channels with niche offerings have pandered to the ratings game.
TAM, in my opinion, is an excellent system for what it offers, but it CANNOT answer everything. The industry needs to look for additional solutions to try and understand audience behaviour more closely and put the ratings data in better perspective. Only then will they be able to truly create differentiated content from their competitors and set trends. And I am sure many broadcasters do exactly that in some measure but its all propriety.
In other words there is a dire need for some industry wide original research to look beyond counting number of heads and the time they spent. To that objective, I found the recently released ‘Characters India Loves’ study (click here) by Ormax media a particularly innovative attempt at trying to quantify viewer engagement with popular characters on TV. That it is a study done by an independent company and not by one particular broadcaster should lend it currency among broadcasters, agencies and advertisers alike. That it promises to be a quarterly track will allow interested parties to look at trends than merely one off statistics.I believe a lot of innovations and sponsorships etc can be planned by drawing clever inferences from studies like this one.
I only hope that this is not a one off attempt and we see many more studies on Indian audiences where we get insights into their tastes and preferences. Of course the counting will remain as important!