Exclusive - BARC & TAM: From foes to friends
After being bitter foes for close to a year, how do India’s two television ratings measurement agencies BARC & TAM justify a merger? Vikram Oza quizzes BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta & TAM Media Research CEO LV Krishnan how the two companies will work together when BARC’s biggest selling point was that TAM’s technology and measurement was inferior.
Vikram: We are talking about the monopoly that was created which needed to be broken. but now we see both of you coming together…
Partho Dasgupta: The currency is always one. To that extent there’s nothing new. Had to come by some day or the other.
Vikram: What’s the genesis of this?
LV Krishnan: First of all there was never a monopoly. During the early stages of TAM there was an INTAM service which merged together to form a separate organization right after that, that fought with TAM till 2011. Today we are in a situation where two services are merging. But currency should be one, because of which we have merged. To form a super-big panel.
Vikram: You cannot have more than one currency. Choice is always good. But it did exist right?
Dasgupta: You can’t use dollar and euro in the same market can you? There can different types of data that you can use to map your progress or response. But this is about currency, thus it has to be one.
Vikram: There were a lot of differences that existed and now we come on the same table and saying we are doing business. Why so?
Dasgupta: What we are doing is we are forming a subsidiary company right now, which will be held 51:49 by BARC and TAM, with full management control of BARC where we are pulling in all the meter assets which we will figure out and deeply as per BARC methodology. So it will be just one currency.
Vikram: But the problem is… how these meters aren’t placed where they should be placed…?
Dasgupta: BARC and TAM both have a different sample design. What we have been transparent about is that it will be relayed by BARC sample design. Point of contention was hat BARC technology picks up better and is superior. But what we have learnt that all absolute the old meters aren’t in the system any longer. So it will be two different data sets, which will be fused at the audience data level.
Vikram: There are two different data’s that are used. By itself that creates confusion about the quality of the data that comes out.
Krishnan: At the end of the day, what is the function of the meter on the day to day basis? It is picking up viewership data. Now it doesn’t matter whether its picking up by the technology called watermarking or through signatures. The job the meter does at the end is the same at the end of the day.
Vikram: Then why do we say one is more superior over the other?
Krishnan: There is no question about superiority. It’s just that the ability to pick up data via watermarking is slightly different than what it is via signatures. Both have their own merits and demerits.
Vikram: Going by choice, what do you think is the more reliable one of the two?
Dasgupta: See going by the big choice of watermarking that is more reliable.
Vikram: So at least from BARC’s perspective do you agree that this is not the technology that we started out by endorsing and saying this might work?
Dasgupta: No, I’m not changing my stance at all.
Krishnan: See it’s not that signature is not superior as the watermarking technology. Because you should understand that if one switches off the watermarking technology from the channel, it’s the signature technology that still enables you to decide which channel is viewed more. In fact they complement each other.
Vikram: The data looked very alike when you brought it out. Just few nuances added, however the data was extremely alike. What do you have to say about that?
Krishnan: That tells you technology is not the issue.
Dasgupta: Bird’s eye view would be that. But if you look at regional markets, a lot of changes are happening. At the end of the day, both systems are measuring audiences at the end of the day. So it should look alike why look differentiated?
Vikram: There were fundamental problems. Technology issues were a concern.
Dasgupta: When we do something we go out and tell them we are doing it. Which is transparency, who is doing it as well was told so everything we have done is completely explained.
Vikram: Don’t you think there are chances someone will go out there and tell the Competition Commission - this is the problem we have? Don’t you fear that kind of litigation?
Dasgupta: Will obviously go around the normal regulatory clearances. This is how it works globally and we follow ministry guidelines to the T. So there’s nothing we fear. I’m not expecting any trouble.
Vikram: The idea was to put out 50000 meters within 4 years. Someone would come and say this merger is just a way of fast-tracking that process. What do you have to say to that?
Dasgupta: By March 2016, we anyway had a commitment to add 2000 meters. This is one of the reasons too for the merger. But the main reason is to have a single currency.
Krishnan: Advantages are huge for the industry, while TAM has manpower; BARC has financial bandwidth to expand. Both can use each other in a good manner. The manpower can be best used to utilize the available financial bandwidth.
Vikram: Manpower is fine, finance is fine, but what I don’t understand is processes, which we had a fundamental issue with.
Dasgupta: There will some changes in processes. For example we use Census 2011 to establish base. So we will use that. TAM had something outdated, but now we’ll use this. But things like what happen on the ground are what we are adapting towards. We are trying to see the things we can use and see. And then making it work with guidelines we have formed.
Vikram: This looks like work in progress.
Dasgupta: Of course it is a work in progress. We have just signed the understanding we are now working towards how to integrate.
Vikram: How has the industry, broadcasters the media taken this piece of news?
Dasgupta: We have received a very positive feedback, very honestly. They feel it’s the best thing that can happen.
Vikram: Isn’t the lack of choice bothering them or you?
Krishnan: Depends on what I’m using the data for. If I’m using it just for transaction purposes then the synergy helps in bringing across a bigger number which will help them in digging into the data deeper and will allow them to use it in an easy way.
Moreover, most clients look deeply into their programming, marketing, through their own internal creation of data. That’s where that will continue in a different data. There’s a huge amount of data available in the market and they use it according to their needs.
Vikram: When you talk about Business TV, and when you are looking at households, the contention is most are watched during the day and in offices. What will u do to correct that?
Dasgupta: It’s primarily the home viewing that we are looking at right now; there are some markets which have gone to the outdoor markets as well. It’s the right time for a business channel to approach and ask whether we look to tap a segment we don’t right know. We may however create a small panel that will help us measure specific segments and how it is viewed.