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How BARC will be different from the current TV ratings system
MUMBAI: The industry’s new television viewership measurement system that will measure 20,000 TV households (25,000 measurement meters) in the beginning will be different in many ways from the incumbent system (TAM).
Even as the industry body Broadcast Research Audience Council (BARC) is busy shaping up the system, it has disclosed that the first major difference will be that the audience classification will not be based on the old SEC (socio-economic classification) demographic.
Other differences include covering rural India and measuring recorded telecast.
New consumer classification system (NCCS)
The new consumer classification system (NCCS) will be based on two variables: education of chief earner and number of ‘consumer durables’ owned by the family. The list has 11 items, ranging from ‘electricity connection’ and ‘agricultural land’ to cars and air conditioners.
“The NCCS is the biggest change in the new ratings system. Ultimately, the ratings will be trading currency and the NCCS will give a better picture of purchasing power of the household or the demographic, which an advertiser will be more interested in,” BARC chairman (technical committee) and IPG Mediabrands India CEO Shashi Sinha said.
The earlier SEC was based on two demographic variables: occupation of chief earner and education of chief earner. However, in the old SEC, the chances of a household elevating to upper SEC was unlikely, despite the increase in the spending power. BARC believes that the NCCS, which was also used for the latest Indian Readership Survey (IRS), is a better demographic.
The pre-defined list includes electricity connection, ceiling fan, LPG stove, two wheeler, colour TV, refrigerator, washing machine, personal computer/laptop, car/jeep/van, air conditioner and agricultural land.
According to Sinha, the biggest benefit is that it will have a single system for urban and rural India. It will also have more discrimination compared to the current SEC and will be more objective as it captures affordability quotient of households (as it no longer uses occupation) and it is simple and easy to answer, not very time consuming, and easy to classify.
The only task will be to revisit the system at least once every two years to make necessary changes, as consumer durables penetration changes faster.
Given that approximately 50 per cent of TV homes are in rural India, the second big change, Sinha said, is reporting rural India.
In the beginning, BARC has allocated 30 per cent of the all-India sample size to rural India, which comprises 6,000 meters.
Excluding the six metros, in comparison with urban demographic, rural India will have 43 per cent share.
With the initial sample size of 20,000 homes, double of what TAM currently captures, BARC will also include Jammu & Kashmir and the north-east.
“The mandate as per the I&B Ministry guidelines was to cover urban as well as rural India, and we are going to do that from Day 1. Our commitment is to report on ‘What India Watches’, with a wider and deeper coverage.”
Interestingly, when it comes to the share of states and Union territories, BARC has divided the country into three separate clusters. The top five are with over 8 per cent of TV-owning households, next five have 5 to 7 per cent and the remaining five have less than 5 per cent TV-owning households.
It is important to note that BARC is taking into consideration all the TV households and not just C&S (cable and satellite) as it will also capture terrestrial mode of transmission.
“The recommended sample is 29 per cent from six metros, 32 per cent from cluster 1, 24 per cent from cluster 2 and 15 per cent from cluster 3,” Sinha added.
Measuring recorded telecast
The biggest problem with the incumbent rating system is its inability to capture the recorded telecast or time-shift television. However, the audio watermarking technology used by BARC will allow the measurement of recorded programmes as well.
Once the audio watermark is embedded in the transmission by the broadcaster, it cannot be removed and BARC meters will measure it, even if it is played after the actual telecast.
Sinha explained that while the meters can store data for up to two months, as per international standards, it will be measured up to seven days of the original telecast or VOSDAL (viewed on same day as live).
However, there is one small glitch with the audio watermarking technology. If a viewer mutes the telecast on the set-top-box, it will not register on the BAR-O-meter.
However, Sinha said that it will only be in case of viewer putting STB on mute and not TV. In case a viewer is using TV remote to mute the telecast, it will still register.
“Also, it is a trading currency, why will an advertiser want to buy a spot where the telecast is on mute?” he said.
The total investment in the new ratings system from BARC and broadcasters is close to Rs 225 crore (Rs 2.25 billion). Out of this, BARC has put in Rs 125 crore (Rs 1.25 billion) for the mechanism while broadcasters have spend additional Rs 90–100 crore (Rs 900 million–Rs 1 billion) for audio watermarking the channel feeds.
The biggest advantage for BARC is that the measurement meters, BAR-O-meters, which are manufactured in India, are very cheap compared to the existing peoplemeters. As per sources, the cost is around Rs 25,000 per meter, which allows BARC to scale up easily.
The BAR-O-meters are powered by Intel chips and use third-generation OLED display. Moreover, the meters are mapped with key GSM operators across the country, which will allow the seamless data collection.
Both Sinha and Dasgupta maintained that BARC is trying to get the best system in place and give out robust data. While both refrained from giving out the exact date when the ratings will be published, they hinted that it will be soon.
It is expected to start providing the ratings as early as next year. While the technology allows next-day measurement, BARC will initially give weekly ratings.
Sinha said that the deployment of BAR-O-meters for testing purposes has already started, and with the panel design and establishment survey in place, the deployment will not take much time. However, before putting out ratings, BARC will study the ratings internally for some time to check any inconsistencies and anomalies as it may take some time for the new system to stabilise.
Undoubtedly, the recent IRS data which was published after a gap for two years with a new metric based on a new methodology has been educative in many ways. The IRS data shocked many publishers and after multiple publishers voiced their concerns, it was put through validation and re-validation. The IRS data was recently re-released after a seven-month gap.
Interestingly, with the IRS data in abeyance, the BARC roll-out was also delayed as BARC was using IRS’ baseline study for its panel designing.
BARC, in which 60 per cent stake is owned by the broadcasters and the remaining 40 per cent by advertisers and advertising agencies, has used IRS data, Census data and TRAI data for establishment survey.