Thursday, 1 August 2013

Consumer choicestill a far cry

A tiff between broadcasters and advertisers kept the industry guessing the outcome everyday in the last month. In this tug of war TAM has been the rope pulled between a monthly rating system and a weekly rating system by the broadcasters and advertisers respectively.  
Thank God that a hybrid solution has been found at the end under which all data issued to the public domain will be in the television viewership in thousands (TVT) format, which captures and reflects growth in TV audiences in the country in absolute numbers and for media planning and buying, the data supplied to advertisers and media agencies will offer weekly television rating points (TVR) and all other information that had been made available to them in the past. Also BARC, the new rating council will supervise all TAM data till it starts producing its on within a year or so. 

I feel this again is an outcome of a hasty digitalization where no planning has been done by the government or the regulator to cope up with the sudden changes in the overall ecosystem of the industry. There will be more polarization of viewership once MSOs start providing choice to the consumers. They are still working on fixed packages wherever SMS systems are not fully operational to provide a-la-carte choice.  
CAF forms with consumer choice have not been submitted by all subscribers till now. Consumers who have not yet given these forms have either been deprived of the Cable TV or provided only the FTA channels. 
I am surprised that the government has not come up with any planning for Phase-III and IV of digitalization that should end after about 18 months as per the notification. Time is too short to digitize about 75 million homes compared to 25 million homes in phase I and II that took almost the same time to be completed with many processes of digitalization yet to implemented.
Industry is still not very sure of the outcome and benefits of digitalization that was so well perceived at the beginning of the process early 2012. Manufacturers are still struggling to increase their STB production due to costly imports as Rupee has weakened to a historic low. Pay broadcasters are struggling with their TRPs which are changing for the worse as more and more subscribers opt only for their choice channels. Advertisers are threatening broadcasters to withdraw ads from TV channels as the issue of TAM ratings is not fully resolved. Uncertainty in the last mile operations is forcing LMOs to come out on the streets in protest or go to the courts to get their fundamental rights. Above all broadcasters are waiting for another shock once 12 minute cap on advertisement every hour is implemented on 1st September, after a month.
These problems will make it very difficult for anyone to achieve any gain from digitalization in the new future. The process  has started in a big way but is likely to go on for years. I hope most of these issues  may get settled in the next two to three years in the big cities. Rest of the country may take another 10 years to get digitized fully. Unfortunately people who started the chaotic, unplanned process will no more be visible in the scene then.

Wish you all a happy independence day.

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma



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