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Sunday, August 26, 2012

TAM data faces questions from radio operators

Mumbai: Television viewership monitor TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd, which has been slapped with a lawsuit for more than $1 billion in damages by TV network New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV) for allegedly fudging data, has also raised the ire of FM radio channels for the way it measures the audience for their programmes.Unhappy with radio audience measurement (RAM) by TAM, at least three FM stations have stopped subscribing to its report in some of the markets where they broadcast, if not all, and a fourth is considering following suit.

Radio One Ltd, a joint venture between Next Mediaworks Ltd and BBC Worldwide; Entertainment Network India Ltd, which operates 32 stations under the Radio Mirchi brand; Music Broadcast Pvt. Ltd that has an FM presence in 20 cities as Radio City, are the three that have already cut off subscription to the TAM report. All three discontinued the service before NDTV sued TAM.

Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd, among the largest radio operators with 45 radio stations under the Big FM brand, is also considering withdrawing subscription to RAM.he radio operators have alleged that TAM is using an inadequate sample size and have questioned the way it compiles the data. “We have requested RAM many times to introduce transparency in its processes and audit systems. We also suggested setting up a panel that includes stakeholders to make the system transparent. But RAM has not taken any measures in this direction,” said Tarun Katial, chief executive of Reliance Broadcast Network.

NDTV has sued TAM Media and its parents The Nielsen Co. and Kantar (the market research arm of London-based advertising and public relations firm WPP Plc) in a New York court, for “manipulating television viewership data in favour of channels that were willing to offer bribes to its officials”, Mint reported on 2 August.NDTV sought “compensatory and punitive damages” for causing financial loss and loss of reputation and brand value through the release of incorrect viewership data, according to the petition. “Given the recent development, we have lost faith in the research and the reliability of the data,” said Prashant Panday, chief executive officer, Radio Mirchi. “When we found certain discrepancies in RAM data for Delhi, we stopped subscribing to the data in that market. We are considering withdrawing subscription in other markets (Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore) as well.”

Radio One also found RAM’s data statistically insignificant, because of the low sample size, and discontinued the service.“We did not find satisfactory their explanation for various regular anomalies in their data. Also, the data could never correlate well with programming and marketing effort across stations and competing brands,” said Vineet Singh Hukmani, managing director at Radio One. L.V. Krishnan, chief executive of TAM Media, dismissed criticism on the markets covered. “Of the 15 top radio markets that account for 80% of the total expenditure on advertising, we cover 14. While we offer weekly numbers for the top five markets, the remaining cities throw up data every six months,” he added. Krishnan also refuted allegations that marketing efforts and programming strategies do not reflect in listenership. “If you look at stimuli and listenership, it always matches,” he said.

Most executives want an electronic audience measurement system to be put in place, instead of the so-called diary method that’s currently used. TAM Media Research launched RAM in 2007 under the diary method, in which consumers note the details of their radio listening habits. The Media Research Users Council (MRUC) also offers radio listenership data under the Indian Readership Survey (IRS). MRUC data is based on the “day-after-recall” procedure and has been under fire for showing a constant decline in radio listenership.

Currently, RAM offers weekly ratings and the market shares of radio stations in the five metros—Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai. In addition, it provides data for nine more cities every six months. These cities were added in 2011. Executives at radio stations say that data are not reflective of the actual radio listenership.“We undertake research internally and have observed that radio consumption is growing in some markets. But this has not been reflected in RAM data. Besides, the diary system used by RAM does not work for the Indian market, the methodology needs to undergo change,” said Nisha Narayanan, senior vice-president, projects and programming at RED FM, co-promoted by Hyderabad-based Arjun Rao and Sun TV Network Ltd.

Krishnan of TAM Media said the diary method was still popular in developed markets such as the UK and Australia. “Even some markets in the US employ the diary system,” he said. The electronic system comes at a price. “At the current stage of maturity of the radio industry in India, the cost of measurement versus the return on investment does not justify the minute-by-minute consumption data that the electronic meters offer,” he said. There has been consistent growth in radio audiences and “we may go electronic in 2013 depending on the requirements of the sector”, he said. According to RAM, the average weekly cumulative reach of radio has grown in Delhi and Mumbai. For instance, the weekly reach of radio in Delhi more than doubled from around 6.35 million in 2008 to around 14.85 million in 2012. In Mumbai, radio’s reach grew from around 7.11 million to around 10.47 million over the same period.

Krishnan said since radio’s reach in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai was more or less equal to that of TV’s in these cities, it made for a sound media vehicle for advertisers.Harshad Jain, business head at Fever 104 FM, owned by Mint’s publisher HT Media Ltd, speaks for RAM, which he calls “the only syndicated and focused study on radio”.“RAM’s weekly study gives out time spent, show-wise listenership and so on in detail; it follows the global mechanism, unlike Indian Listenership Track (ILT) that gives out data based on ‘day-after-recall’,” said Jain.The estimated size of the radio industry is around Rs.1,400 crore in annual advertising revenue.

According to a 2012 report on the media and entertainment industry by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and KPMG, the radio industry is estimated to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 16% until the phase-III expansion of FM radio begins in 2013. Growth is expected to accelerate to 22% post-phase-III.