BNT SHUFFLES THE CARDS ON THE ADVERTISING MARKET
The managers of the state-owned television are going to sign an agreement with two companies from which it will gather information about the viewers' interest in the program of Channel 1 and the other Bulgarian televisions, the Bulgarian National Television (BNT) press office announced last week. The Bulgarian-Swiss-Austrian consortium formed by GFK Bulgaria - Institute for Marketing Research EOOD and Fesel GFK OOD - Austria (GFK) ranked first in the competition that started last spring and that set the peoplemetric collection of the information as the most important requirement. The winner was followed by TV Plan TNS which has been the only one so far to conduct that kind of surveys in the country. The two companies were the only ones that took part in the BNT competition. It first began with an open procedure under the Public Procurement Act but was later replaced by direct negotiations with the applicants.
The motives for placing GFK on the top of the ranking take into account the more lucrative price, BNT's release informed. The company's offer meets perfectly the requirements for type of survey, coverage of extract, advertisement monitoring rules, maintenance of its representativeness, conduction of controlling procedures for data verification, as well as the requirements towards the electronic database and the information processing software.
The managers of BNT also take into consideration that GFK provides peoplemetric data to leading European televisions such as ORF, ARD, the Swiss public operator, etc. Since the company does not have its own network in Bulgaria, until it is created BNT will continue to use the data provided by TV Plan TNS. The contract with the former supplier will be valid for one year during which GFK should get ready to operate in Bulgaria. Last week the manager of the company, Svetoslav Slavov, explained that the construction of the peoplemetric system might take even less than 12 months.
About GFK's intention to create an alternative to the TV Plan TNS system the BANKER weekly wrote back at the end of 2003. The rumours appeared after a series of scandals exploded between the operating agency and the then management of the state-owned channel which had as a general manager Kiril Gotsev, dismissed in 2004. Several times Gotsev and his deputies expressed doubts in public about the reliability of the data provided by TV Plan TNS. Later, the owner of the cable BBT channel Peter Mandzhukov and the Chairwoman of Nova TV Board of Directors Silva Zurleva took part in the discussions. Mrs. Zurleva even initiated the establishment of a consumers' committee for supervision of the TV Plan TNS data, chaired by Iliya Bozhinov. Beside Nova Television, the committee also includes BNT, BBT, Eurocom TV, K K advertising agency, etc. However, the committee failed to get support from the most powerful advertisers, as well as from bTV. Another consumers' committee was established last winter by more than 50 companies. It united the three national broadcasters and most of the cable televisions. It also attracted a few of the most powerful advertisers and the ad agencies that served them. Despite the consolidation, the ratings measurement continued to spark public debates. The latest case appeared in September when the TV Plan TNS system showed that the start of the Big Brother second season had been viewed by 890,000 people, whereas the concert of Slavi Trifonov and his band broadcasted simultaneously had been preferred by a million and a half. The Nova TV management kept silence, but the producers of Big Brother refuted the figures.
It seems that a more important question about the establishment of the new peoplemetric system right now is whether or not it will be accepted by the consumers' committee that will agree to control its data. It's a public secret that a great part of the ad agencies and even the advertisers insist on collaborating with TV Plan TNS. Last week the company's Executive Director Mila Nikolova said she doubted the successful collaboration between the consumers' committee and the new player on the telemetric market. The BANKER weekly found out that on October 21 the Managing Board of the supervisor held a meeting. It was known before that the meeting that BNT's agreement with GFK would be among the topics discussed. By the time the newspaper was published, no news was received from the discussions.
Observers on the television advertising market already comment that they doubt everything during the months of the BNT competition has been decided in secret, as it usually happens in Bulgaria. They fear that GFK's future measurements will not differ much from the figures TV Plan TNS currently sends to BNT and the rest of its clients.
In the spring of 2005, part of the GFK Group owners and managers came to Bulgaria to present the company's activity. The group ranks fourth among the marketing research chains in the world. It operates in four major fields: ad hoc research, commercial panels, consumer panels, and media. It owns the largest people metry in the world - with 5,640 participating households in Germany. The equipment used by GFK is produced by the Swiss Telecontrol AG. Since 1984 Telecontrol has made more than 45,000 peoplemetric devices installed in over 17,000 households. They are used in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, France, Portugal, USA, Ukraine, etc.
TV Plan TNS
The joint-stock company is registered by the Sofia City Court as a company doing market surveys and studying the public opinion. Sixty per cent of its shares are held by Balkan British Social Surveys, in which 32% stakes are controlled by the sociologists Kuncho Stoichev and Andrey Raichev. The remaining 40% stake in TV Plan TNS is owned by the Britain-registered Index company. Its supervisory board includes Stoichev, Raichev, the British Michael Curham and Anthony Talor, as well as another sociologist, Vassil Tonchev. Mila Nikolova is the company's Executive Director.