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Set-top boxes can't capture viewership: TAM
Shuchi Bansal in New Delhi | June 04, 2003
Will the set-top boxes installed to access pay channels in the post conditional access system regime, create a parallel audience measurement system?
The answer is no, if TAM Media, India's only television viewership monitoring agency is to be believed.
The agency undertook an elaborate study to analyse the threat perception from set-top boxes that will soon be a part of India's broadcasting industry.
For starters, not all set-top boxes come equipped with the smart card credited for capturing TV viewership information, say TAM officials. So, often, the chip has to be purchased and installed separately.
Moreover, the smart chip may not be smart enough to capture viewership trends. "It cannot detect if viewers are in the room or if the TV is on and being watched… all of which is captured by the ACNielsen PeopleMeters," says Atul Phadnis, director S-Group, TAM Media.
Phadnis says that TAM swung into action and sent its people to the Asia-Pacific Nielsen Media Lab in Australia to test the probable set top technologies expected to come to India.
An in-depth study revealed that TAM could not strengthen the viewership trends its captures with the help of information from the set-top boxes.
A survey in three Far Eastern countries found that almost 93 per cent households never switch off the set-top box even when they are not watching TV.
That's scary, for in the remote possibility of a set-top box tracking which channel is on, it would show uninterrupted viewership for the last channel viewed by the household even when the TV is switched off!
While analysing the potential of set-top box, TAM officials discovered that the multi-system operators (there are 10 in Mumbai alone) are most unlikely to come together to pool in their viewership pattern information.
And on a stand alone basis for different localities, it may offer little value to broadcasters or advertisers. That is not all.
Audience measurement involves activities such as research design, research methodology, representation of diverse viewing clusters, validation techniques, data processing and fusion among others. which may not be feasible for cable companies to carry out.
Moreover, set-top box will be installed only in homes watching pay channels. "What about the free-to-air (FTA) and terrestrial channel audiences? Aren't they valuable to advertisers?" asks Phadnis.
"While there will be no set top boxes installed in FTA channel homes, Peoplemeter will cover these households for viewership data," points out Phadnis.
Lastly, TAM claims that India is embracing CAS after many countries have implemented it.
"And there has been no credible experiment where this kind of set-top box collected data has been put to use to gauge viewership trends," adds Phadnis.