TV broadcasting industry split on landing page matter
MUMBAI: Most TV broadcasters have favoured a ban on placing TV channels on landing page of distribution platforms while the distribution platform operators (DPOs) have urged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) against putting in any restrictions as the same will hamper on their rights.
The Broadcasters Audience Research Council (BARC), on its part, has played it safe by stating that the issue is beyond its control as placing a channel on the landing page is purely a distribution level activity.
Viacom18 submitted that the distributors should not be allowed to manipulate the viewership measurement process by placing channels on the landing page. It further stated that landing page should not contain any channel irrespective of whether it is measured or not.
Batting in favour of banning channel placement on the landing page, ZEEL noted that a channel with a maximum viewing duration in a clock minute gets the entire viewing attributable for that minute.
It further stated that if a channel is placed at a landing page, whenever customer switches on the set top box (STB), it displays the landing page containing the channel first for a predefined duration.
The predefined duration is generally configurable and during the said period remote does not allow the subscriber to flip channels, it noted.
This time period attains criticality and may influence television rating. It may happen multiple times as and when a customer switches on the STB in a day. After the STB is switched on, landing channel continues to run on background, the customer browses the menu options which consumes some time.
TV18 Broadcast submitted that by placing a channel over a landing page by a DPO, every customer of such DPO is mandatorily forced to watch such channel immediately upon switching on of the STB.
It also pointed out that in many cases DPOs also put a predefined time restriction before which a customer cannot flip/change the channel/content placed over a landing page.
Both these actions directly limit, and adversely impact, a consumer’s choice, the broadcaster said.
News broadcaster India TV said BARC should ensure that they capture landing page as separate entity and not duplicate it with existing channels. It also noted that placement on landing page gives undue advantage as BARC will record viewership if a viewer spends 7 seconds on the channel.
Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) and Times Network are against placing restrictions on landing page.
SPNI noted that placement of a channel on landing page only provides a window for the channel to showcase its content to the audience. It is a promotional tool which helps the consumer to discover quality content.
It further added that landing page could have the potential to influence TRP ratings only if its content is able to hold the consumer for more than a clock minute (60 seconds).
Stickiness of the viewer to stay on the landing page is determined by the viewer’s interest in the content of the landing page channel, it noted.
Times Network submitted that placing a TV channel on the landing page is marketing and placement offering of DPO. The same does not have any effect on the TRP.
The broadcaster noted that the viewers immediately go to the channel of choice after switching on the TV. It also noted that there are specific metered TVs whose readings are recorded and not every household.
It further stated that permitting a channel to be placed on landing channel will not lead to contravention of extant TRAI regulations on dual LCN or genre.
Since there are no extant regulations issued by TRAI and a channel can be placed on the landing page, while being within its respective genre and on a single LCN, it added.
Prasar Bharati has said that no channel should be allowed on the landing page particularly if they are measured by BARC. It, however, added that platforms should be allowed to use the landing page for marketing and promotional purpose.
The All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) noted that the basic reason why landing LCN does not distort consumer choice is that a consumer is not required to stay on the landing LCN and the electronic programme guide allows the consumer to seamlessly navigate to the channel of the consumer’s choice.
It further stated that broadcasters pay placement fee for placing their channels at a number where it can attract viewers to its content and allow the viewer to exercise the choice to view that content.
The federation also submitted that landing page is not the only way of increasing viewership. The first channel within every genre attracts more views than the fifth channel, it stated.
The AIDCF also believes that the entire TV rating measurement process itself provides adequate safeguards on the TV rating process.
Direct to home (DTH) operator Dish TV is of the view that placing TV channel on landing page does not influence TRP ratings. It further said that there is no need for a consultation exercise as the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) has already issued an advisory to BARC not to consider the landing page for evaluating TRP ratings.
It further said that the authority needs to closely examine the methodology being adhered to by BARC while reporting the ratings and then appropriate directions could be issued to BARC directly instead of involving distribution platforms.
Bharti Telemedia submitted that there is no need to re-define the concept of landing page and the distributors should be given the flexibility to decide its scope and content without any regulatory intervention.
In its submission, BARC India said that the placement of a channel on landing page improves opportunity to view. However, viewership is a factor of number of people who viewed it and time spent viewing it.
It further stated that the technology adopted by BARC detects TV channels based on their unique watermark code, and not by their name or channel number. Hence it cannot distinguish between a watermarked channel placed on a “landing page” or anywhere else in distribution platform’s EPG.
It also said that placing channels on landing page is a purely distribution level activity involving broadcasters and distribution platform operators. Any action to control/regulate this activity must therefore be taken at the level of distribution.
“Controls at the level of viewership measurement is not advisable since they would be neither feasible nor practically implementable,” it averred.
“Regulating and ensuring compliance in the area of distribution lie entirely in the domain of TRAI and MIB. It has no relevance or touchpoint for the process or methodology of viewership measurement.”