How can the broadcast industry shift to faster adoption of return path data for reliable audience measurement?


Return Path Data-driven television audience measurement has once again made headlines after the government-appointed four-member TRP committee shared its report with the Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC India) and all associations of broadcasters on Monday

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Immediately after the TRP scam broke last year, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting formed the TRP committee headed by Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Vempati to access the existing classification system for TV channels.

When the committee submitted the report on January 12, 2021, then Minister of I&B Prakash Javadekar said that “the report will be discussed and handed over to BARC India”.

Why did it take the government 11 months to share the report with BARC India and industry bodies? The answer lies in the report itself which talks about creating an alternative currency to promote competition without any roadmap for funding the new currency.

Broadening the sample base via Return Path Data was another solution suggested in the report which never took off due to several complications such as the involvement of multiple stakeholders including DTHs and cable companies. operators.

While a few DTH players such as Tata Sky and Airtel had set-top boxes with RPD capabilities, many other operators needed to upgrade their set-top boxes. Players whose set-top boxes needed upgrading were reluctant to jump into the question of who would fund their additional investment in infrastructure.

Players who already had the capabilities asked BARC India to pay for the data as they spend a certain amount on processing the data. When the measuring body, then headed by Partho Dasgupta, refused to pay them, the matter was decided.

However, sensing RPD’s demand in the absence of audience for the news genre, Airtel decided to sell its data to individual broadcasters.

A few broadcasters told on condition of anonymity that they didn’t want to create another dinosaur. “Today if we start paying X amount to Airtel, Tata Sky will say they will charge double because they are double in terms of subscriber base. They have the information what their competitors are quoting on market. How much are we going to continue to pay all individual players? Also, having so much different data present would create a lot of confusion,” a broadcast manager said.

“Given the manual intervention into BARC data, responsible for fraud, RPD is the best possible solution. This has the potential to provide real-time data at all times, just like YouTube data. will have no chance of manipulation in this case. Any broadcaster will welcome this decision,” said a senior executive at another broadcast network.

BARC India’s reservations to relying heavily on RPD data was that the return path data from set-top boxes would be household data and would not give granular detail at the individual level, which is essential for media planning. by advertisers. Therefore, he wanted to use select set-top boxes representing all markets, not all set-top boxes available from a DTH or cable operator. And then, the rating agency would have processed the data at the same time as its own data collected via the existing barometers.

“Ratings or any measurement data is based on a statistical approximation. If you can rely on the extrapolation of a few thousand individual data points to give an idea of ​​what India is looking at, I see no harm in relying on millions of household data and then using statistical tools to extrapolate the same estimate to the individual level I don’t think this is a problem that can’t be solved unless the industry wants a solution to this said a broadcast executive.

“At least we will have reliable data on the markets and the NCCS level,” the executive added.

“Such unrealistic pricing for data quoted by individual players will never last. The government and BARC India industry stakeholders should jointly find a solution to this problem to avoid any possibility of creating dozens of currencies BARC’s competition could only be another measurement body and not individual DTHs or cable operators selling different data to different broadcasters and advertisers,” said one media watcher.

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