TAM proposes STB to digitally quantify TV viewership

Written by Corporate Bureau | Mumbai, Aug 28 | Updated: Aug 30 2008, 05:15am hrs
Television Audience Measurement (TAM) Media Research has proposed an alternative measurement system to quantify viewership pattern on digital television, including both direct-to-home connections and digital cable connections. The new measurement could be done through the set-top box (STB). TAM feels that for a research agency, it is apparently an efficient measurement tool. Sharan Sharma, who is heading the research wing in TAM, said, TAM is working on the STB return path data (RPD) to enable the advantage of a large sample size, and hence, enable precision in data. TAM is already in talks with DTH platform owners or service providers to implement the RPD. This exercise is planned to begin in Mumbai with 10,000 homes.

Conventionally, STB receives the signals and transmits them to the television. The same TV signals could be received by TAM and under the RPD study, measure different viewership patterns. The thought behind this separate study is triggered by the huge fragmented market.

Besides the fact that the RPD method will give a large sample size, for broadcasters and production houses, it allows testing new programmes, helps gauge specialised genre better and in marketing activities. For advertisers and advertising agencies, it would allow targeting special segments and better efficacy in multimedia campaigns. Currently, in India, the penetration of digital television is at a very nascent stage. While it stands at 6.5 million subscribers, it is projected that it might grow to about 9 million subscribers by 2009. In Europe and in the US, the penetration of digital television is to the tune of 60% and India is no exception, said Sharma.

However, the RPD data has its own shortfalls. The first concern was that the STB would continue recording data even if the television set is switched off and if the STB remains on. The second concern is whether RPD data can detect the number of people sitting in front of the television set. Also, in case of multi television homes, while one TV may be connected to an STB, others may have analog connection. In such a situation, the RPD data might underestimate the TV viewership. And finally, not all STBs have suitable hardware to carry the RPD data.

Besides this, from Wednesday, TAM will also release the data of digital TV viewing along with the regular weekly data that the organisation releases on the broadcasting audiences measured by its peoplemetre. Although TAM has been measuring digital audiences for over a year now, the number was combined with that of analog data.