A few days before the expected return of the ratings for the news genre, the consensus is far from being built in the television news industry. On Saturday, NDTV announced that it was leaving BARC India, just two weeks before the rankings were released.
Just hours before this development, a report appeared on PTI claiming that BARC India was considering delaying the release of the data.
In an in-depth interview with BestMediaInfo.com, NDTV Group Chairman Suparna Singh explained the reasons behind the newscaster’s exit from BARC.
Singh said the low sample size to measure grades is the main reason for their decision to pull out.
“Handling is very easy with the small sample size that BARC currently has. Even a small scale rig of peoplemeters completely skews the odds. The larger the sample size, the more difficult it is to handle. Even with the number of counters currently in use, we never get a clear answer on how many are actually used to measure news and what is the split between Hindi and English news,” Singh said.
“When it comes to actually expanding the sample size, for some reason there seems to be some resistance from BARC. Whenever we asked how much it would cost to increase the number of counters , we did not get clear answers and explanations,” she added.
Did NDTV misinterpret the situation?
Singh said they were assured of the requirement for changes after the rating money scam exploded. “We were told that BARC and its board were going to reevaluate everything. Now that the ratings are about to be rolled back, we don’t think the changes made are anything but substantial. Therefore, we will not participate.
Singh’s statement and the reason for NDTV’s decision to withdraw imply that the ratings were suspended due to a money scam and the promised solution was a significant increase in sample size before resuming rankings.
On the reason for the ratings suspension, BestMediaInfo.com has repeatedly confirmed that the police case involving money for the rating was never the reason for the ratings suspension.
BARC India, and even the former rating agency TAM India, in the past had filed numerous such FIRs across the country for meter tampering. BARC has reinforced its vigilance team to stop this threat. It was also not suspended as this time it was a high profile meter tampering case involving big names.
The real reason for the suspension of the ratings was the audit report from Acquisory Consulting. After the press conference called by the Mumbai police to expose the TRP racketeering, senior BARC board officials reviewed the audit report in detail. When they felt the depth of evidence of corruption, they decided to halt the ratings of the news genre for 8-12 weeks.
The corruption that pushed newscasters into the dark times of ratings was due to uncontrolled manual intervention in the handling of outliers from the landing page, multiple channel placements on a distribution (LCN) and compromised people counters.
It has been highlighted by BestMediaInfo.com on several occasions (here and here) this landing page was the “tool” used by former BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta to remove Times Now and benefit Republic TV when it was launched in May 2017.
Acquisory’s forensic report found that Republic TV’s final viewership data after outlier clean-up surprisingly increased by 10, 4, and 3 TVT in weeks 27, 39, and 46 of 2017, respectively. While about half of Times Now viewers were kicked out despite Dasgupta being aware of Republic TV’s landing deals.
For the record, BARC India hosted a webinar to share details about the changes it has made to data processing and presentation. An industry insider told BestMediaInfo.com that the controls BARC has in place are largely compelling.
“BARC may not have met all the expectations of news broadcasters because it is not possible for them to meet all the demands from different sections of the news channels. However, I think the industry was largely sold on BARC’s presentation. I don’t think so. remember BARC India promised to double the sample size before resuming TRPs for news channels,” the insider said. .
Who will fund the large sample?
Remember that the previous television audience measurement agency TAM, at its peak before leaving the ratings market, posted 8,000 peoplemeters. Of these 8,000 meters, the industry estimated that only 5,000 to 5,500 meters provided data on a weekly basis.
Currently, BARC India has 44,000 meters. The joint industry body’s revenue has been hit hard during the pandemic, as it gets a certain percentage of ad revenue from subscriber channels. Additionally, due to the suspension of ratings, revenue from newscasters fell to zero.
Who will fund sample size expansion has always been a big question mark. Even when BARC India was in the planning stage, it was four big IBF players that funded Rs 16 crore each and a bank guarantee in excess of Rs 200 crore to fund the people counters and operations.
According to information available on BestMediaInfo.com, BARC India has been unable to meet its expenses for the past two years.
Even the government insisted on increasing the sample size, to at least one lakh, before resuming the ratings for the news genre. But stakeholders expressed their inability to spend hundreds of crores to meet the demand and promised to do so in a phased manner, which also included integrating Return Path Data (RPD) into the current system. The government then formed a joint task force, led by Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Shekhar Vempati, to study and integrate the RPD.
Asked about the reason for the removal of BARC data as part of ongoing efforts to bolster sample size, Singh said: “Previously we also sued TAM. We sued them in America and at the time there was a jurisdictional issue. Our motivation is that our audience share is correctly reflected. Why continue to wait? If the assessments start now and we know those assessments are not correct, why would we participate? What should we expect? It’s not just our request. It is a basic requirement that the sample size of BARC cannot be so small.
Airtel RPD numbers behind NDTV release?
Many industry experts BestMediaInfo.com spoke to pointed out that NDTV saw a silver lining in Airtel’s commercial release of RPD. BestMediaInfo.com previously reported that DTH has rolled out RPD with India TV as its first customer.
Just before pulling out of BARC, NDTV had released a communication claiming the fourth position citing Airtel’s RPD.
When asked if NDTV’s decision to withdraw from BARC was based on the performance of Airtel’s RPD, Singh rebutted saying that Airtel’s RPD had nothing to do with their decision to withdraw. BARC data.
However, Singh referred to Airtel’s RPD and digital consumption behavior to establish that BARC data does not reflect the true measurement of NDTV channels.
“We are very happy to be measured across a larger sample, whether through return path data from DTH providers. We will be happy to be part of a measurement system that is reliable, uncorrupted and made up of third-party data. We have frequently published our digital statistics for our online video. The gap between what we find in terms of online audience for our TV channels and what BARC reports is huge. Moreover, the gap between the audience share that RPD allocates to NDTV and what BARC reports is huge. We are not against the measurement system. We just want an honest and reliable measurement system,” Singh said.
Will it backfire?
When BestMediaInfo.com spoke to marketers about their reactions to Airtel’s DPR, they made it clear that it was not a true representation of TV viewership, as the data does not capture than connected TVs, as most people consume OTT or digital content on these TVs. They also said that at best, Airtel’s RPD can be a point of reference, but not a currency for them.
Asked if NDTV did a gauge with its advertisers before pulling out, Singh said, “We believe in our audience and our brand image. If you look at our financials, we’ve done very well while the ratings aren’t published. Our advertisers do not trust what BARC claims about our audience share. We had no problems during the dark period. At no point does NDTV suggest that we should go through RPD only. We understand that it has its limits, but at least it is not manipulated.
Despite being at the bottom of the pecking order on BARC data, advertisers choose NDTV channels for quality audiences. But at the same time, they need a currency to justify their spending. Until now, they used historical data in the dark period of the ratings for their post-evaluation and therefore it had little impact on the legacy brands. It’s hard to say that any of the advertisers on NDTV wouldn’t want data after the rankings come back for their post-evaluation and it’s likely that many advertisers who have chosen NDTV channels for their reach will move on.
When asked if disabling BARC data could backfire, Singh said, “We are confident that our decision will not backfire. NDTV is known for its ethics and news value. We cannot participate in something that is now accepted as corrupt.