It’s been two years of India’s audience measurement company BARC rolling out its first data set. Since then, it’s been a rollercoaster measuring the industry, examining the viewership patterns of the country and setting up Establishment Survey. Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India, gives us his insight on how the journey has been so far, viewership patterns across genres, universe expansion, rural viewership and the broadcasting industry coming to terms with it.
How has the ride been when it comes to data rollout? What has been the biggest challenge so far?
From launching the first data set on April 29, 2015, to now, the journey has been a very challenging and satisfying one. While there is satisfaction from the successful release of data for the last 80 weeks, weekly data release still gives me sleepless nights. But, that is the way the industry functions.
The biggest challenge has been to explain to the industry the change in viewership pattern. It is an ongoing task and the team is doing a great job on it.
After the BARC universe expansion, how have viewership patterns changed across various genres?
With the universe expansion, the number of total TV homes has gone up. Along with this, we have seen huge changes in the profile of TV viewers which has had a positive impact on genres. For instance, Hindi GEC grew by 17 per cent, Hindi Movies saw a spike of 19 per cent, English Movies saw an increase of 19 per cent and English Entertainment grew by 44 per cent. Our universe estimate shows the rise of the middle class and nuclear families within the TV viewing universe. The other genres have grown too, and the viewership of English genres continues to come strongly from beyond the metros as well.
Niche channels have questioned their representation in the expanded BARC universe. They feel they are not getting their due. What’s your take on that?
We have always maintained and communicated to players in the space that they should look at data over longer durations and larger TG base. This is solely because niche channels, due to their small viewership base, have a relative error that is higher than that of say Hindi GECs or Hindi Movies.
As mentioned earlier, post the universe update, genres including niche, have seen a huge growth in viewership. This is also in sync with the ground reality of more homes moving up the socio-economic ladder, digitization leading to a greater sampling of the larger number of channels available to the viewer, growth coming in from Tier 2 and 3 towns etc. Niche genres have grown post the realignment that has happened with our new universe estimate. Now, as we expand our panel homes size, and move towards incorporating Return Path Data (RPD) from digital distribution platforms, the data will get progressively more robust.
How are you dealing with the issue of pre and post evaluations and the variations that exist?
The variation in pre and post evaluations is mainly due to fidelity in data. We have been continuously speaking to our subscribers on this. In fact, we had also set up a Committee with members of AAAI and ISA to look into it and their feedback has been incorporated in the system. However, we believe that subscribers have understood the reasons for the variations and the seasonality associated with it. We have seen no pre-post issues in the last six months.
What are the challenges ahead when it comes to Establishment Survey?
We would ideally want to do an Establishment Survey every year to be able to depict any on-ground changes. However, any large-scale survey like this is both time-consuming and incurs huge cost. Over the next couple of years, we will see different socio-demo and consumption patterns emerging and hence, it becomes critical to conduct this periodically for correct reflection.
Which breakup of TG and geographical markets have witnessed the highest levels of fluctuations and changes?
Post our new universe estimate, MP/Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Gujarat/D&D/DNH markets have seen the highest growth in viewership. We have also noticed that the younger generation is showing increased interest in TV. The biggest growth in viewership has come from the 2-14 and 15-21 age groups. This is good news for both the content creators and advertisers who can now target this young audience.
What insights have you got from the urban and rural viewership breakdown, especially rural data?
Inclusion of rural viewership, which was being ignored earlier, has been a great eye opener. The industry is now realizing the importance of rural viewership and this has changed the landscape of television. The rise in the number of FTA channels, growth of Freedish, increase in advertising on FTA channels among other things point towards the changing approach to rural.
We have seen a 13 per cent rise in the number of advertisers on rural-focused channels. The biggest spike was seen in Hindi Speaking Markets (HSM) channels. From a 31 per cent share of total advertising, the share of FTA rose to 39 per cent. With around 38 per cent of the rural population forming the affluent base (NCCS A & B) and 47 per cent of total rural population in the age group of 15-40 years, it is they who form the belly of rural viewership. This shows that going forward, any premium or high-end product targeting need not necessarily be limited to urban anymore.
Last October, you mentioned that there is scope for improvement by making the data more robust through more sampling and more meters, but there comes in the economic issue of affordability of the industry as a whole. Where have you come to with regards to that?
Expansion of panel size is one of the ways to build higher degree of accuracy in our data. Apart from this, we are also working towards tying up with DTH and digital cable TV providers for Return Path Data (RPD). All these initiatives will help us increase our sample size and thus, drive more accuracy. We are also exploring other innovative ways to expand the sample size.
How has Alpha Club evolved?
Alpha Club is a special report on viewership trends of NCCS A1, A2, A3 of 6 Mega Cities which we release for our subscribers on a rolling four-week period. The report has been well received and has proved beneficial for subscribers as well. Alpha Club has become a ready reference to derive viewership trends for our subscribers, especially those targeting this TG. We have seen Alpha Club reports being used in Industry forums and client pitches to showcase performance, which is a good sign.
How long do you think it will take for data to stabilise?
It is not right to tag flux in data as instability. I am sure our subscribers will agree with my thought. The data we roll out is representative of ground reality. We were always robust and stable, and we still are. Also, since the landscape is dynamic and we have to recalibrate ourselves to make the data more accurate, there may be some disruptions in the short term. Take, for instance, our new universe estimate (UE). Yes, a lot has changed from the time we introduced the new UE, but how long will we trade on data based on a survey done in 2013? The industry understands this, and has welcomed the move.
The data is as stable as it can be and market changes will be reflected in it.
Do you think broadcasters are finally able to understand the BARC system?
As an organization, our focus has always been on training and helping our subscribers with software and data related queries. The fact that the transition from the old system to the new universe happened so smoothly is a result of the constant interaction we keep having with our clients. Yes, it took some time, but our subscribers today understand fidelity in data.
MIB (Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) guidelines restrict us from giving any consultancy service to our subscribers. But, to help them plan better using our data, we are in the process of appointing third party consultancy firms who will provide this service to our subscribers. This will again help our clients understand the data and chart their strategy around it.