"Somewhere down the line we want to be seen as the best guy when it comes to knowledge about TV-viewing behaviour patterns," says L.V.Krishnan, chief executive officer, TAM Media Research. If that happens, it would be a fairly far cry from the negative perception that surrounded the Mumbai-based television audience measurement company in mid-1999 when some advertisers, agencies and satellite channels praised rival INTAM (from ORG-MARG) for offering a superior product at a lower price. Krishnan, who joined TAM last October, is bent on changing this, and more.
Starting January, he launched TAM's first serious customer service initiatives. Now, he is trying to double coverage, a critical issue in all TV studies in India, and launching three new services for existing and new clients.
ConnecTAM, a service meant to help clients use the existing Connectivity Report better, should appear in a month's time. The other reports aim to extend TAM's reach beyond its existing audience. InvesTAM is aimed at financial institutions to help them monitor TV-viewing patterns in accordance with the scrip movement for any particular TV channel. AudiTAM targets consultants like Andersen and PwC, says Krishnan, who need to measure how TV viewership gets translated into advertising. "They can see how their client fares against competition when it comes to results on advertising spends. It will be quantitative data to better ROI on TV advertising," he explains.
The industry was divided between TAM, a joint venture between AC Nielsen and IMRB, and INTAM till 1996, when a Joint Industry Body chose TAM as the official currency for TV audience measurement. TAM and INTAM cover almost identical markets. They differ primarily by the technology used for capturing data. TAM uses frequency-tuned peoplemeters (they collect data based on a television's frequency bands) while INTAM employs largely picture-matching peoplemeters which scan pictures on the TV set that are then matched with reference sites.
Then the accusations flew in 1999. When Krishnan joined, he could perceive the lack of customer contact. "TAM's rigour of research was fantastic but its perception was low," he recalls. "What was a problem was customer service which was to do with the lack of value-added data and infrequent contacts with the customer."
So TAM began work on customer service on two fronts - customer education and more value-added data. One of the bigger criticisms that any research outfit receives in a highly non-homogeneous market like India comes from sample selection. Till date, TAM has 3,454 meters installed across 27 towns - 10 metros (population of 10 lakh plus) and 17 smaller towns(population of 1-10 lakh). Without a doubt, that hardly gives a true picture of TV-viewing across 30 million C&S homes and beyond. A plan has been worked out for nearly doubling this coverage.
In the first phase, TAM has been expanded to 17 towns across MP,Rajasthan, Bihar, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, HP, Kerala and West Bengal with 1,100 meters. The next phase will see TAM moving into another 12 towns with 950 meters. By December 2001, TAM expects to be present in 56 towns with over 5,500 meters. "That will make it the world's largest peoplemeter system," claims Krishnan. INTAM is learnt to be extending its coverage from 3,637 meters in 29 cities to another 750 meters in 20 new towns.
The first reports from TAM's 17 new towns have started coming in. But how soon they make it to the main reports is yet uncertain. Alongside, a User Satisfaction Month was launched in January 2001 which publicised a helpline (022-2817289) for customers to get back with complaints (more so because it is a software-related business). "The market is going through a learning phase," says Krishnan. "The turnover at agencies - where the usage of this software is the highest - is high. There is a new person at the agency every other day." Later, it branded Agency Weeks wherein one particular agency was serviced by company executives for that particular week.
One of the disadvantages of TAM's frequency-tuned peoplemeters is that the report is unable to match channel data correctly if the cable operator changes the frequencies on which one or more channels are beamed. TAM,which had begun laying a parallel home service around 1998 to record, on an ongoing basis, which channels are playing on which frequencies in which cities, is selling this report now. "We were using it for our own work till we began selling it some months back," says Krishnan. "Distribution being such a key determinant in a channel's success today, it is a very useful indicator to know where they are going right and where not," he remarks. The parallel report, which sells for about Rs 7,500 per channel per week (compared to Rs 10 lakh to Rs 2.5 crore per annum for the main report) has found 15 clients to date.
TAM is also replacing its Optimiser (a software for media planners to optimise their plans) Super Midas with X-Pert,Fulcrum being one of its earlier clients. But one of the things that TAM can still not tell you is what a viewer was doing while watching your channel. Or how she reacted to an advertisement beamed on your programme. If TAM is to be the expert on TV-viewing habits, it will be looking into these too, but perhaps not too soon.
© 2001 agencyfaqs!First Published : April 16, 2001