B2B media portal exchange4media.com (e4m) finds itself in the middle of a controversy, after it made public some findings of a study it had done on unsold inventories among television channels. A report on the e4m study had appeared in Financial Express on May 07, 2001, and the same had been featured on agencyfaqs! that very day.
While agencyfaqs! had no means of ascertaining the validity of the e4m study (which is why we ran the report on the study as is), we received a mail from Current Opinion and Future Trends (COFT) yesterday morning, informing us that the report on our site is "misleading and harms COFT". Subsequently, agencyfaqs! also received a mail from Star TV stating that "the report is factually incorrect".
Here's a peek at what got COFT and Star TV. According to the Financial Express story, e4m claims to have done a study that shows that "television channels have a significant amount of unsold inventory, which results in a major loss of revenues." Here, 'unsold inventory' basically means the number of seconds of free commercial time (FCT) that television channels have not managed selling to advertisers.
What appears to have irked COFT is e4m's claim that its analysis is based on a Media Monitoring Report released by COFT. And the data from COFT that e4m has culled applies to a four-week period in September 2000. Says Praveen Kumar, managing director, COFT, "For one, we have not supplied any data whatsoever to e4m - not for the month of September 2000 or for any other month thereabouts. We prepare such data for clients, and only they are privy to such information. And e4m is not a client."
Star TV, for its part, finds the study irrelevant. "It is a study based on September 2000 figures, a study based on eight-month's old data," says L.S. Nayak, executive vice-president, Star India. "In a dynamic medium like television, this data has no relevance. Speak to anyone in the industry today, and they'll tell you that Star is running a 100-per cent inventory." Nayak is also angered about the facts and figures. "I have pulled out the data on Star for the period mentioned in the study, and the figures that the study claims is totally wrong."
COFT is particularly incensed because the entire e4m study is on unsold inventories, and it might be inferred that COFT has provided the data for the study. "COFT has no way of knowing how much unsold inventory channels have," Kumar is emphatic. "We conduct analysis of sold FCT, and are not in a position to determine how much unsold ad time any channel has during any time slot or time period. Only the respective channels would be able to confirm the same."
Apparently, different channels have different policies when it comes to FCTs - although most would be loath to admit it. "A channel could choose to have either a high rate-low volume policy, or a low rate-high volume one," reveals a media planner with a front-ranking agency. "So you simply cannot use any one yardstick and make a generalization. Yes, in theory, you can calculate the total estimated FCT of a channel and deduce the unsold FCT by subtracting the sold FCT from the total, but that cannot be conclusive under any circumstance."
To further prove its point, COFT told agencyfaqs! that the e4m study makes a mention of the sold inventories of channels such as Etc, Alpha Marathi, CNN and CNBC. "The fact of the matter is, even today, we do not monitor Etc and Alpha Marathi," says a senior executive at COFT. "And in September 2000, we didn't track CNN and CNBC - we started monitoring both much later."
When contacted, Amit Agnihotri, co-founder, e4m, admits that e4m did this analysis on the basis of the sold FCTs of COFT. "And there are multiple sources that can give you the total inventories of channels, and this information is public knowledge," Agnihotri explains. He cites the example of the regulatory laws in countries from where uplinking happens. "Each country has broadcasting rules and laws of the land that stipulate the maximum amount of FCT a channel can offer. From these total FCTs, we have analyzed the unsold FCTs of the respective channels."
Agnihotri dismisses the contention that different channels have different policies on FCTs. "FCT is not at the discretion of channels, although many channels use flexible FCTs in a particular time slot as a strategy to get more advertisements for, say, a popular programme. But this is just a case of borrowing FCTs from either the previous or the following time slot." When quizzed about COFT's stand that it has not supplied e4m with the data, Agnihotri admitted that, "We procured the data from secondary sources." However, in reply to the question on how come e4m had made an analysis on Etc, Alpha Marathi, CNN and CNBC, all he said was, "We have raw data. And look, we are not promoting any channel. This is just information that the industry can use."
Nayak, of course, wouldn't hear of the possibility of deducing unsold FCT on the basis of sold FCTs. "It's impossible," he says. "Star has a policy whereby no channel of ours will have a FCT of more than 10 minutes-per-hour. But other channels do not have such a rigid format. In India, at least, there are no such stipulated norms. That's why you might miss three balls in an over when you're watching a cricket match on DD. And what about the Miss World contests that run for four-five hours at a stretch? Will someone tell me the FCTs here?"
© 2001 agencyfaqs!First Published : May 10, 2001