With French company Mediametrie as its technology partner, Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has announced that it will start its operations with 25,000 people meters, expected to cost the equivalent of 7,400-9,600 people metres of the existing ratings agency, TAM.
As for the funding, IBF (broadcasters) will bear 60 per cent of BARC's costs, while ISA (advertisers) and AAAI (agencies) will bear 20 per cent each. For TAM, the cost is divided between the agencies and broadcasters (albeit not equally).
In the process of BARC's roll out of data, apart from technology management (technology and people meters), panel management and quality management are also important aspects.
The technology partner for the process is Mediametrie, which will handle key technology services and licensing for the proposed television audience measurement system. The agency is in the final stages of deciding on the people meter manufacturer. Once done, it will roll out the panel management plan.
Mediametrie will use watermarking technology to collate the viewership from the audience, which will include repeat viewing, online viewing and simulcast for any piece of content.
Mediametrie is the joint industry body in France, operating the TV, internet and radio currency ratings systems, engaged in multi-media audience research for the last 25 years. The organisation has worked for TV ratings in France, Morocco and Netherlands. Under its arrangement with BARC, Mediametrie will provide technological knowhow and licenses to BARC to use its TV metering system and also help BARC procure its own hardware.
However, the algorithm to calculate the collated data and weave it into final rating numbers will be done by some other vendor, which isn't yet finalised, says Gwilherm Nicolas, director, International Business Development, Mediametrie.
BARC has studied the ratings systems in about 30 countries, reveal Goenka and Sinha.
Benoit Cassaigne, SVP, Mediametrie, adds, "Watermarking is an innovative and advanced technology. With this, a particular programme is stamped with time and channel, which is later recognised and collated together. It is a mark on the content."
Goenka adds that the costs for data subscription wouldn't go up that much for the broadcasters. "We haven't yet decided on the rate card. Unlike TAM, which has a bilateral negotiated contract with each broadcaster, ours will be based on the rate card," he further adds.
It is learnt that the agency is currently finalising the people meter manufacturer and later, the people meters will be tested for the Indian markets. By June or July, seeding of the people meters should start and the next three months will see focus on test runs.
Shashi Sinha, chairman, technical committee, BARC says that after BARC announced its technology, TAM has started switching on audio matching in its people meters. "Seventy per cent of the meters had that facility - why didn't they use it till now? Watermarking is a notch above. The problem was there wasn't any official JIB, I was there and I know it for a fact. Every four seconds the signal comes in and it is time-stamped."
As for whether or not TAM stands a chance to be recruited as a vendor for BARC, all the spokespeople confirm that TAM may get disqualified as a ratings agency on the basis of cross-holding clause, but it can always be a vendor for BARC. Even Nielsen and Kantar had bid and they lost out only because of the pricing and no other reason.
While Mediametrie gives out data on daily basis across the other markets, in India, BARC might not start with the daily ratings. However, once the system is settled, it will eventually be a daily rating system.
It must be noted that TAM has always claimed that a joint industry body (JIB) had supported the ratings agency (TAM) when it started. But later, the support wasn't extended anymore. Are there chances of a similar situation with BARC? Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC, denies it. "The difference is that TAM was supported by an industry body (if it's true), and BARC is an industry body," he explains.