If you were on social media, especially Twitter last weekend, you would have surely encountered glowing reviews about the Indian version of ’24′. The show, that went on-air last Friday, received predominant positive feedback from Twitter, as well as from the television and film industry, including competitors of the channel airing it. The feedback was on the same lines in the corporate community too.
For most of these stakeholders, ’24′ brings in the hope that our television will change for the better, and become relevant to them personally. When I tweeted the following last Saturday, I was hoping to be proven wrong: “Our ratings system will never capture #24India’s real impact. Anything that’s skewed towards upper strata tends to be under-reported in TAM.”
Alas, it was not to be. ’24′ opened to tepid “audience” response, scoring below the 2-TVR mark in its opening week. Evidently, the audience that enjoys Diya Aur Baati Hum and Jodha-Akbar every night decided to stay away.
But are they the only “audience”? As any brand manager of a semi-premium or premium brand would want to know: Are these really the audiences who buy my products? I just picked up today’s The Times Of India (Mumbai) for a quick check: 7 out of the 13 prominent ads in the paper are either luxury brands or brands clearly targeted at an evolving mindset that’s doing more things that watching the same serial every night for the last four years.
No wonder that 5 out of these 7 don’t use TV at all for their advertising. Because the measurement metric just doesn’t factor the reality of their target audience –socially mobile, affluent and evolving consumers who are increasingly going to craft the marketing future in India. Let’s call them “Evolving” for the purpose of this piece, only for brevity.
Are the Elite being measured by TAM? In 2007, TAM made an attempt to set up an ‘elite panel’, perhaps with a similar idea. Within months, the service had to be aborted because the differences between the main panel SEC A and the elite panel were not striking enough. But their definition of ‘Elite’ was based purely on affluence, not on attitudes and mindsets, which often concern brands more.
Since then, we have been in status quo mode. The following five “Evolving” segments are not being captured by the current ratings:
1. Senior industry professionals, e.g. CXOs and HODs
2. English-speaking audiences who often watch their “TV” on the Internet
3. Time-shifted viewers, who watch DVR recordings
4. HD feed viewers
5. Upmarket housing areas so posh that they are not research-accessible
Crude estimates will suggest that these five will add upto at least 50 million viewers. But if they represent 6% of India’s TV population, they represent at least 15-20% of India’s spending power. But there is no data, none at all, that captures their viewership. No wonder then that many advertisers have chosen to stay off television and taken the print way instead.
We routinely conduct studies for premium brands that sponsor TV programmes, to understand whether the association helped them achieve their marketing objectives. Often, the general brief is: “We have the ratings, but we always knew they will be low on TAM. We want to know whether it actually worked for us in our TG or not.” That “our TG” is not being captured by TAM is an obvious inference to be drawn here.
BARC has been speaking about coming up with a ratings system that’s future-ready. If they have to indeed achieve that, they will need to address this elusive “Evolving” audience. Otherwise, we will just have more sample size of the same type of audience being reported.
For me, ’24′ is the best Indian television has offered on the fiction front in a long time. Today, I feel like a voter who is ignored by the local politician because he does not belong to the caste that controls the vote bank. Or like a resident of the village in Akshay Kumar’s Joker, whose inhabitants realize their village just doesn’t exist on India’s map.
There are many like me who will like to be “measured”. And the implications of measuring “us” are not just commercial, but social too. Today, television is the lead medium in India in terms of its influence on young minds of the country. The programming we churn out will decide the nature of this influence. If something as technical as measurement comes in the way of this process, it will be nothing short of tragic.
This post first appeared on mxmindia.com, on my weekly column ‘TV Trail’