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Weighing the new rating system under BARC

MUMBAI: The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India has completed the universe estimation study, Broadcast India, and will soon release the findings of the research, CEO Partho Dasgupta said at the FICCI Frames 2016.

“It is the biggest such survey featuring 300,000 homes. We completed it in six months, which makes it the fastest such survey to be completed. We saw the first result just three days back. The findings will be unveiled in few weeks from now,” Dasgupta said during a panel discussion ‘Lord of the Ratings: The BARC Order’.

ParthoIn September 2015, BARC had appointed Nielsen to conduct a study on television ownership and viewing habits. BARC had said that the first round of findings would be out in early 2016.

Talking about the implications of the survey, Dasgupta’s co-panelist and BARC Technical Committee head Shashi Sinha said that the BARC panel homes would be picked based on the survey. The number of gross impressions of TV channels will also depend on this survey.

The study will provide the industry with an in-depth understanding of the count and composition of television households in the country, with updated numbers over time as industry currency, addressing questions such as number of televisions per household, viewers and viewing habits. It will also gather data on television-owning households in small towns and rural India.

The survey will capture the paradigm shift in content viewing between linear mediums like the television set and digital mediums such as smartphones, tablets, PCs, etc.

Kicking off the discussion, Sinha said that BARC had got more compliments from outside India than within the country. “Nowhere else has a measurement system of this scale been pulled off in such short time,” Sinha stated.

On a question by the panel moderator India TV CEO Paritosh Joshi about the complaints from stakeholders about instability in the data, Dasgupta noted that is bound to be volatile as viewers do not behave similarly every day. BARC provides data to users as it is without any change.

Raj Nayak, CEO, COLORSWhile agreeing with Dasgupta’s point about volatility, Colors CEO Raj Nayak said that the broadcasters also co-relate whenever there is any drastic shift in viewership. GECs, he said, take a hit whenever there is a cricket match.

Nayak suggested that the data for niche channels should be a four-week rolling average as the total universe is very small and the margin of error very high. Dasgupta said he was in favour of the same. However, it was not considered by the BARC board. He also said that relative error is part of statistics.

On the question whether BARC can also measure other mediums rather than restricting itself to TV, Sinha said that it is possible, but the mindset of the stakeholders has to change.

Shashi Sinha“From a technology standpoint, we are at a good place. There are multiple issues at hand. Each stakeholder has its own interest. We sit on multiple organisations. We are trying to dovetail different systems. At some point, the measurement ecosystem should have a backbone in which each stakeholder manages his piece,” Sinha said, adding that digital measurement will be ready by the end of the year.

The biggest challenge, he said, is to ensure different interests are aligned.

Nayak concurred, saying that there is no reason why there can’t be an Indian Media Foundation with BARC also doing print and radio measurement. He, however, hastened to add that it’s easier said than done.

Dasgupta said that BARC has moved towards cross-platform measurement. The viewership metric has also changed to impressions.

The discussion veered towards the issue of reliability of data. Sinha and Dasgupta said that BARC has set up vigilant squads to look into cases of wrongdoings.

Sinha mentioned an instance in Hyderabad wherein one English business news channel saw 12 hours of non-stop viewing a day. When the BARC team found that something was amiss, it quarantined the home and stopped reporting data from that meter.

Sinha didn’t name the broadcaster due to legal implications. He also said that BARC has suspended ratings of one channel because of unethical conduct.

Dasgupta said that a clause in the agreement gives BARC the right to suspend ratings for six months in case a charge is proved against the accused channel.

“We see data in the backend. The algorithm picks up if there is any abnormal data. Of course, there are different ways to define what is abnormal. When we pick up those abnormal homes, we check if the abnormal behaviour is due to content or is it a normal behaviour. If there is consistent abnormal behaviour, we quarantine the home. We will not use the data,” Dasgupta explained.

He revealed that BARC uses lots of spy cams and videos to track homes where they see unusual activity.

Nayak suggested that BARC should report data for pay channels and free-to-air (FTA) channels separately. While pay channels provide original content, FTA channels are re-runs of old shows.

Now that BARC has started reporting rural data, Nayak favoured selling urban and rural markets separately. He explained that Colors monetises DTH separately. “We will try to maximise revenue—sometimes package, sometimes unbundle,” he noted.

On the Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s criticism about BARC the other day, Sinha said that BARC is operating under TRAI guidelines. The coverage of panel homes had been specified by the sector regulator and there was no deviation from that.

Dasgupta said that BARC will start measuring split beams also. Nayak stated that more more granular data should be provided while Sinha added that it is planning to launch an affluent panel.

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