Nisha Qureshi

Marketers concerned about TRAI’s new audience measurement recommendations

The proposed recommendations aim to modernise and help the broadcasting sector grow but have also sparked a number of concerns for broadcasters and marketers.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recently released recommendations on ‘Inputs for formulation of National Broadcasting Policy-2024’. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), in its letter dated July 13. 2023 had requested the TRAI to provide its considered inputs under Section 11 of the TRAI Act, 1997 for formulation of National Broadcasting Policy.

The objective of the policy is to facilitate the growth of the sector with quick adoption of emerging technologies. This aims to provide an immersive and enriching experience to consumers in a cost-effective manner, while safeguarding the interest of the stakeholders involved in the broadcasting sphere.

However, it has also raised major concerns among industry stakeholders as the recommendations call for multiple rating agencies, a revamp of the existing audience measurement system, and an expansion of the sample size.

"The entry of multiple agencies not only introduces competition but also has the potential to enhance service quality and reduce costs. Competition acts as a catalyst for innovation, pushing the adoption of new technologies, research methodologies, and analytical methods, thereby ensuring continuous evolution that aligns with the changing dynamics of the media landscape," says TRAI.

"To facilitate the establishment of multiple audience measurement agencies, the government should play a proactive role. Offering subsidies and launching schemes could serve as incentives for the formation and sustenance of these agencies, encouraging them to invest in state-of-the-art technologies, proven research methodologies, and transparent measurement processes. Government support is crucial in creating an ecosystem where diverse entities can thrive, fostering healthy competition, and ultimately enhancing the accuracy and reliability of television audience measurement in India," adds the regulator.

Marketers concerned about TRAI’s new audience measurement recommendations

According to stakeholders, while some recommendations are welcome, the involvement of multiple currency agencies is debatable.

Ashish Bhasin, founder of The Bhasin Consulting Group, says, "I am not a big believer in having multiple measurement currencies involved because it causes confusion, as we have seen in the past with TAM and INTAM, which is actually a key reason why BARC was formed. I think more than having multiple measurement agencies, it is more urgent to have multiple media measured by the same agency so that we at least have a commonly agreed measurement currency."

He notes that when BARC was envisioned, digital was not significant, but today, the scenario has completely changed. Currently, there is a situation where one measurement system does not communicate with the other.

"The advertising, marketing, and broadcaster fraternity are looking at the audience in silos. However, consumers are not living in silos. The consumer who watches content on TV also consumes OTT, social media, and other things simultaneously, on mobiles, laptops, etc."

Bhasin adds that while there is always room for improvement, such as increasing the sample size, the more important issue to address is how to get a complete 360-degree view of the consumer from 'one agreed source,' which is relied upon as one currency throughout by all stakeholders.

"I feel BARC is an agreed system between advertising agencies, clients, as well as broadcasters. It should be strengthened to include multimedia measurement. That is the need of the hour."

Similarly, Mayank Shah, VP of Parle Products, says that while some recommendations like the use of the latest technology and inclusion of digital media are welcome, the involvement of multiple agencies can be troublesome.

"Back in the day when we had TAM and INTAM, there used to be a lot of claims and counter-claims even with limited channels and just two agencies. I think BARC has good representation with all stakeholders, and we should stick to one currency."

R.S. Sodhi, president of the Indian Dairy Association and Ex MD at Amul, also feels that the measurement system creates the currency that advertisers use to measure the efficiency of their spends.

While marketers fear the involvement of multiple agencies, Yasin Hamidani, director of Media Care Brand Solutions, feels that the revamp of the audience measurement system, as recommended by TRAI, will significantly impact advertising in India.

He says multiple rating agencies and an expanded sample size will provide more accurate and diverse viewership data, reducing biases, and ensuring a fair representation of audience preferences.

"This transparency will lead to more effective and targeted advertising strategies, allowing advertisers to allocate budgets more efficiently based on reliable data."

Ashish Golwalkar, media consultant and the ex-head of content at SPNI, adds that the audience measurement revamp is long pending. He says having multiple agencies involved will be beneficial for both content makers as well as audiences.

According to him, having multiple agencies involved ensures there is rigour and accuracy in their reporting. "Competition in any sector should be encouraged because a monopolistic approach, especially when it comes to data, is not a great idea."

The recommendations further call for the creation of a new framework for OTT viewership data, and a policy for radio audience measurement.

Golwalkar welcomes these because according to him, one of the biggest pains for broadcasters in this ever-evolving market is that there is no way of monitoring content viewership on digital platforms.

"Another drawback is a lot of television content eventually rests on digital platforms like Star Plus content will rest on Disney+Hotstar and Colors content will be on JioCinema, etc.; there is no way of measuring that. Not only is this important for advertisers but also for makers who should know how their content is performing on digital."

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