How RPD will help BARC to improve TV viewership measurement

MUMBAI: The Broadcasters Audience Research Council’s (BARC India) initiative to work with distribution platform operators (DPOs) on return path data (RPD) will help in expanding the panel size, make the viewership data more robust, and give better representation to niche genres.

The broadcast sector stakeholders also feel that the data from RPD will be more robust than the one derived from the peoplemeters installed at random TV homes.

BARC India plans to fuse household viewership data from different DPOs with its in-house TV viewership data. This will allow better representation of actual viewing habits.

The RPD, according to its proponents, will also make it difficult to indulge in panel tampering due to the sheer size of the panel homes, which will run into lakhs.

Panel tampering can have a big impact on the viewership data if the panel size is small. However, a larger panel size will neutralize any effort to tamper with the panel homes.

The RPD will not just be beneficial for the broadcasters and advertisers it will also help the DPOs in subscriber management, packaging opportunities and driving ad revenue from in-house channels.

BARC will collect RPD by simply inserting a dongle in the set top boxes (STBs) of the DPOs. Currently, the viewership measurement agency has reached an understanding with multi system operator (MSO) DEN Networks. It is in talks with other DPOs to come on-board for the initiative.

Currently, BARC India has a panel home size of 30,000. It is planning to take this to 40,000 panel homes in 2018.

Through partnerships with DPOs, the council is planning to up its panel size substantially to 1.5-2 lakh homes. RPD will help BARC to increase the panel size without burning too much cash.

While the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) in its TV rating agency guidelines had mandated a panel size of 50,000, RPD will help BARC to exceed that number by a huge margin.

Zee Unimedia COO Ashish Sehgal said that the panel expansion through RPD will help niche genres particularly English channels.

“To boost the panel sample from 30,000 to 1.5-2 lakh homes, BARC is tying up with DEN to start with to provide RPD. Going forward, other DTH operators would also be roped in. This would help give better viewership insights across genres, especially Niche and English which is suffering today,” he stated.

According to Sehgal, BARC would be able to provide consumer profile and TV consumption pattern using RPD which will be more accurate than the normal viewership data. He noted that the council will offer demographics and market cuts by households initially which “will give more robust data”.

Sehgal also said BARC should give data about household and income from RPD. “If BARC only gives viewership data from RPD then it is not of much use,” he stated.

He further noted that the RPD will also give a fillip to targeted advertising on TV. The broadcasters can demand a premium from advertisers for targeted advertising.

“RPD will enable us to do targeted advertising similar to digital which has return path but with clear understanding who your consumers are and what they consume. We will get premium from the advertiser for doing targeted advertising,” Sehgal noted.

He also believes that RPD will drive the industry towards adopting cost per thousand (CPT) model of doing ad deals. “We do deals on CPRP, RPD will probably help us to move towards CPT because we will get the profile of the viewer and their consumption habit,” he stated.

Concurring with Sehgal, IndiaCast Media CEO Anuj Gandhi said RPD will help the industry move from CPRP to CPT as more accountability in the system will help grow the ad revenue.

He noted that RPD will allow broadcasters to know what is being watched and what isn’t. “You will know which content works and what doesn’t. International players have this and they know the value of it,” he said.

“RPD will also help in taking corrective action can be taken if a mainstream channel is not performing in a certain location,” Gandhi added.

Currently, BARC gives a statistical representation which does not give the full picture, however, RPD will give a more accurate picture. “The only gap is that with RPD you will not know who is watching content you will only know what is being watched,” he stated.

According to Gandhi, RPD is similar to what a platform like Netflix has which is why it has a strong recommendation engine. “The issue is that DPOs should agree to it. Also if RPD requires a change in boxes then people might not be willing to invest in it,” he averred.

ETV Network CEO K Bapineedu feels that convincing the DTH and cable operators would be a big challenge for BARC. Having said that, the adoption of RPD will help in getting genuine data as it will reduce the involvement of viewers in gathering data, he stated.

He also said that the coverage of niche channels might increase due to increase in sample size. Furthermore, viewership behaviour from all devices available at home can also be monitored.

“Actually, cost per sample may come down as set top box is the only device and there isn’t any separate meter for data collection. Higher sample size and lesser involvement of the viewer may lead to a transparent and correct data,” he pointed out.

ABP News Network COO Avinash Pandey said RPD will be a real-time data which will do away with a lot of anomalies. “RPD will make the BARC data more robust. If more distribution platforms share the data the better it will be for the industry. It works well for the MSOs also because they would also get to know the consumption patterns of their subscribers,” Pandey stated.

He also noted that the time is right for the adoption of RPD as BARC has successfully established itself as the premier viewership rating agency in the country.

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