interview with Tam Media Research vice president Pradeep Hejmadi
all the new delivery platforms, we are at the doorstep of
a very interesting phase'
on 24 April 2006
been associated with a wide variety of assignments in the domain
of media planning and broadcast management. Now he's buried into
been just over six months since Tam Media Research vice president
Hejmadi joined the company and when we mention that to him, he seems
shocked at how time has flown.
last assignment was with the kids' channel Nick. His experience
traverses through various media organisations like Turner International,
Discovery India, HTA and The
Hetal Adesara Hejmadi dwells on the various issues that
concern the television industry today and also on the exciting phase
that it entering.
It's been just over six months since you joined Tam, how has the
journey been so far and what was the mandate given to you when you
journey has obviously only begun but it's been good fun. Being on
the broadcast side, you see one view of the world. There I was doing
a whole host of stuff that is quite different from what I'm doing
here. So from that point of view it is a refreshing change to come
to audience research and to help people to converse with data.
terms of mandate, the idea was simply to focus on two areas: one
is on the needs of the broadcasters and to keep the system abreast
in terms of the areas that are emerging as interest areas for the
industry per se.
other mandate is to get people to make decisions on the basis of
the information that they have. Some people tend to have a biased
approach towards numbers as research sounds like such a difficult
animal to manage and tame. Our focus has been to try and make sure
that people are able to read audience behaviour and act on it. And
hopefully start seeing some response on the basis of what they are
doing so that they can get far more structured in the way they go
about their businesses.
environment is pretty crazy as we are operating in a very heterogeneous
market and it is not easy to use any information and just act on
it. Many a times the devil is in the details so our focus is really
to find that devil and help people tame it.
Can you throw light on the new initiatives that Tam is or will be
undertaking and in which areas?
too much of what we do is an industry secret, so I'm sure that you
know pretty much everything. The Elite panel is something that is
going to be launched and the current panel expansion is also underway.
The panel expansion is a nine month process that we started in the
beginning of this year. By the fourth quarter of this financial
year, we should be ready. We have consulted the industry and many
people have told us not to make a mid-year change in the measurement
science. So after consensus from the industry, we are looking at
January 2007 to switch to the new universe.
What about the launch of the Elite panel and what according to you
will be the data thrown by it in terms of viewership patterns? How
much of importance will it hold in the coming days in terms of tracking
Elite panel will be up by July this year.
way that we have crafted the panel has not been to bring out any
nuance but to focus on a segment. Everyone wanted to have an audience
profile, which is the top end of our entire market structure. So
in Mumbai and Delhi, we are now going to have a panel, which will
represent the behaviour of the top three or four per cent of the
focus has been to use all the quantitative data that we can get
and construct that profile in such a manner that it robustly segments
the elite from the national panel. Again we have a whole set of
variables through which we have been successful in bringing that
terms of behaviour, once the panel is up people will see what happens.
There are a lot of myths and that is a constant in any industry.
But once the panel is up people will be able to see the reality
as it is.
given that the elite are the top three or four per cent of the population
will have a different lifestyle and it will reflect in their media
consumption as well. Right now we don't have the panel up so I can't
even force a guess as to what the panel will throw up. But it should
be very interesting and the industry is very keen on getting that
kind of information.
are the broadcasters who are specifically interested in the elite
Surprisingly, all the broadcasters are interested. For the Hindi
general entertainment channels, the aim is to talk to everybody
and they don't want to exclude the elite. English entertainment
channels are also very keen because they feel that the core component
of their viewership is the elite. But a lot of these feelings and
aspirations that broadcasters have at present are driven by perception.
But as the data comes out we will be able to find out the reality.
of the things that we have seen is that for the elite the segmenting
elements in terms of defining them differ by market. For example,
in Delhi, the definition for elite was a much trickier one than
it was for Mumbai. But now for both the markets we have been able
to arrive at variables that describe that segment very well.
'In the digital age, numbers
will keep rapidly changing so we needed to find ways of
being able to pull out from a large sample a very robust
estimate of DTH penetration as it stands'
So the elite panel will be only in Delhi and Mumbai?
we are looking at only these two cities for the elite panel.
new delivery platforms like IPTV and mobile TV coming in this year
and also keeping in mind the new DTH platforms launching, is Tam
undertaking any research in these areas?
We have just done a penetration study, which has brought out
estimates of what the DTH number is for households, the small number
of the addressable conditional access boxes that are there and also
what the current incumbent players have in terms of market share.
numbers are already in place. The fact is that in the digital age,
numbers will keep rapidly changing so we needed to find ways of
being able to pull out from a large sample a very robust estimate
of DTH penetration as it stands. The large sample needs to be touched,
collected and reported in a very short period of time. We were able
crack that by using the IMRB household panel, which has shown very
interesting numbers. As things pan out, we will be working towards
getting the universe estimates updated more frequently. We will
also be able to understand the rollout of this phenomenon in different
markets in a very different manner.
Is this a difference of viewership of people watching DTH and those
At the moment we don't know because we are not measuring DTH.
To us the mandate from the industry was to measure any phenomenon
which had a market share of five per cent and above. If any phenomenon
was below five per cent of a market then there is no point in measuring
from our point of view we have been doing establishment surveys
to measure a phenomenon. So if CAS or DTH becomes five per cent
of the market then we will have to report on it.
So are you saying that DD Direct and Dish TV DTH subscribers do
not add up to five per cent of the market?
No it is not five per cent of an individual market.
Once Tata Sky and Reliance launch their DTH, will Tam begin measuring
viewership on DTH?
Once DTH arrives and reaches a five per cent critical mass,
we will begin measuring it. Now whether it is pre or post the launch
of Tata Sky DTH is immaterial.
'If you get 300 channels
as against 100, will you watch three times the TV? It will
be interesting to find out'
What will be the difference in the backend infrastructure for measuring
There will be a difference because these signals are digital.
Currently, primarily because the market is analog is nature, we
had meters which worked on analog. Now we've brought in state-of-the-art
TVM5 meters which can measure DTH and any digital and IPTV signals.
These are the meters that we will be deploying for measuring viewership
the elite panel will be on TVM5 meters and also all the metros will
be moving to TVM5 meters.
What according to you is going to be the impact on programming content
after the launch of these new platforms?
This is a very interesting question you raised. There is one
aspect of what DTH providers will do to justify a person to shift
from cable to DTH. And there is another part of the picture, which
is what the consumer will do once the new DTH platforms are launched.
platform players have already realized that to drive people to take
a box or dish and to go through the motion of having a one on one
relationship with the service provider, they will have to add some
value over the basic tier. So from their point of view, they are
trying to build and aggregate as much content and provide as much
variety as possible. Whether consumers will watch or not, we will
know once we know what content has been aggregated.
will be a game of wait and watch to find out whether tastes will
change. But the fact is that tastes changed when we shifted from
terrestrial to cable and satellite. So going by that, tastes should
change with DTH coming in but how much and by what measure will
have to be seen.
some rules of the game will change. For instance, currently distribution
does play a very critical role. At that time, the kind of TV sets
will not matter because all these households will be remote households
by default because they will switch channels off the set top box
(STB). All of these households will get all the channels on the
STBs provided they pay for them. So it will become television neutral
and also cable bandwidth neutral.
one sense it becomes a level playing field across consumers. Now
if you get 300 channels as against 100, will you watch three times
the TV? It will be interesting to find out. I have a feeling that
over a period of time people and their tastes change. So you will
see a change in behaviour but over what period of time and will
it be an easy or painful switch-over will be ascertained by various
our perspective, we need to have measurement that is representative
and precise. We need to have people understanding what is coming
out of this system so that they can then funnel it back.
are actually at the doorstep of a very interesting phase. In six
to eight months' time we will start seeing some things changing.
are your views on conditional access system (CAS)? How is it going
to impact the industry if and when it comes into place?
From a long term perspective it is obviously good for the industry.
Nothing happens very easily. We know the resistance to change that
we as human being have. On CAS it has got into a kind of a mess
and has had a bad history. It also got much politicized and hence
because of that and a whole host of things, it has made life difficult
I think once DTH rolls out and channels announce their pricing for
DTH, it will help CAS. It is very good that we have a body like
the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), which has put
in certain norms to help platforms iron themselves out. So in their
regulation the 'must provide' clause has been put in and pricing
parity has been brought in so that channels can't have different
pricing for different platforms. This will help CAS and DTH.
there are some issues with CAS. One of them is inter-operatibility.
As far as CAS is concerned, if you stay in Chembur and then move
to Churchgate, you might not be able to use the same box. Whereas
this problem does not arise in DTH.
Chennai, for example CAS did not fly because the tastes of that
market is very different. Also the popular regional channels are
all free to air. So the number of people who were ready to pay for
that box was very small. But in a lot of other markets, most of
the Hindi entertainment channels are all pay. As long as they don't
buckle because of advertising revenue pressures and stay pay, they
could fuel growth of CAS.
has been tracking viewership in Chennai, where CAS has been implemented.
What have been the learnings from there?
CAS penetration is very low in Chennai. The pricing is very
exorbitant. For instance, initially, the channels that were on STBs
and were of interest to the mass population were kids channels and
English entertainment channels. If you added up all those channels
on an a la carte rate, the cost of the box was four times the cost
of annual subscription for these channels. Now that's prohibitively
that market, it was a first launch, so it is understandable if Sumangali
might have adopted the strategy of not wanting to price it down
that much. But obviously the value proposition was not that compelling.
This is not the case with a lot of northern and western markets.
In these markets a lot of Hindi content is pay, which has appeal.
Therefore it might drive the box much faster than it did in Chennai.
So Chennai is really an exception.
forward, what according to you are the issues that broadcasters
will face in the coming years with new technologies launching? Do
you have any words of caution for them?
I don't have any word of caution for them mainly because of
one reason - I don't see any threat, I only see an opportunity in
the way things are happening. Consumers have consumed channels for
a while and they like the programming they watch. The positive thing
that is happening now is that a broadcaster is seeing an opportunity
in a disguised form of various distribution routes.
broadcasters see that as an opportunity and seize it, it might be
a lot more good news for them than what it seems to be, with certain
reservations. If you get your pricing right; if you make sure that
as a broadcaster you are not biased towards a distribution platform,
it is only going to be better because there are issues with the
kind of TVs in a household and in what kind of analog frequency
band is there with cable. Plus there are issues with the number
of people you can serve with one cable system. All of these will
cease to exist with DTH.
will start making a choice and give their preferences, whereas broadcasters
will be able to solidify the product over a period of time. So that
revenue line will become a far more solid line.
there will be a painful and uncertain phase but that is there everywhere.
People will have to learn to deal with it but it will take a slightly
longer time. Consultation can work much better than confrontation
in many a situation. At this stage people in the industry need to
communicate more effectively
forget strategy and that's what
will help them.
you see any other major event impacting the television industry
If I say yes, I might be wrong. If I say no, I might be wrong
too. I really don't know. I think the days ahead are going to be
fun as all the different genres are reinventing themselves in order
to get a lion's share, whether it is music, kids, regional or Hindi
general entertainment channels, all of them are rethinking their
know what else will be big this year, but religious channels are
catching up big time. Sports is going through the roof in terms
of the number of events. With so much of cricket, I'm not sure whether
it will have that novelty value. It will have mass appeal but whether
all masses will run for it will be worth watching.
are the genres that will work this year? Will reality shows still
rule the roost?
Reality is a very broad term, it's like saying - serials, which
brings everything under one category. But within reality we have
seen only a few things happening. Reality has its pluses and minuses,
you can't overdo reality and start running it like a soap as it
tends to become boring. It needs to have that 'Wow' factor.
notable is the fact that unfortunately all the sequels of reality
have not done that well. So it also tells you something about such
programming. But there is a growing appetite for it from the consumers'
side. So from that point of view it will stay
in what form
and format, we will have to see.
you see the number of people going to Mipcom from India, you know
that reality is not going anywhere. Over a period of time things
will start ironing out in the reality genre.
reality a unique concept, which is executed well gets you walk-ins
faster than a soap. For anybody who wants a shot in the arm, reality
is the quick fix solution. But then, they need to have a solid strategy
to retain that new audience and capitalise on it.
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