India preps new TV ratings system

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DELHI -- Advertising and broadcasting industry associations in India are teaming to create a new independent body to measure audience ratings for the country's estimated 200 million TV households.

The Broadcast Audience Research Council will operate independently of its founding members, the Indian Society of Advertisers, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation and the Advertising Agencies Association of India, the groups said Tuesday.

With TV ad spending reaching $1.5 billion in 2006 -- contributing more than 40% of India's total ad spend of $3.7 billion -- and projected growth of 20-30%, BARC's formation is seen as a response to reservations over the existing Television Audience Measurement Media system.

A joint venture between ACNielsen (parent company of The Hollywood Reporter) and Kantar Media Research/IMRB, TAM Media was established in 1997 via the specially created Joint Industry Body, itself created by the same three players as BARC.

However, without a formal structure, the Joint Industry Body was considered ineffective to function as a monitoring body and has now been dissolved in the wake of BARC's creation.

Although TAM monitors the largest TV audience sample in the world, with an installed base of 7,000-plus meters, in recent months the system has been criticized for reflecting a partial and urbanized picture of India's vast and diverse TV audience, which includes 70 million cable homes.

"While we understand that TAM has a sample size that may be robust, it still is not able to capture the diversity of the audiences in India, both from a demographic as well as a psychographic profiling point of view," Haresh Chawla, CEO of Viacom18 joint venture partner, Network18, said in an interview.

TAM's current CEO emphasized that rural areas cannot be overlooked. "There are infrastructure difficulties. Many of the areas go without power," Mumbai-based L.V. Krishnan said in a statement.

BARC will have a board of directors, representing the three founding industry bodies, headed by a CEO, with its secretariat headquartered in Mumbai.

Zee TV CEO Pradeep Guha, representing the IBF, has been appointed BARC's first chairman.
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