A day after Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology Minister expressed discontent with the workings of BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) at FICCI 2016, the annual media and entertainment conference, BARC held an insightful session on its efficiency and larger plans in a bid to set the facts straight.
Titled ‘Lord of the Ratings: The BARC Order’, the panel was moderated by Paritosh Joshi, CEO, India TV, and was attended by Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India, Raj Nayak, CEO, Colors, Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands and Hitesh Chawla CEO of cross-device mapping platform Silverpush. It touched upon relevant points on BARC’s functioning and plans which was rolled out last May.
Joshi started the session with an introspective question to Sinha (who has been associated with BARC India for long) and asked him if he was satisfied with the task that he has set out with BARC and whether it’s in the right place at this time. Sinha pointed out that even though he and his team (BARC) is globally appreciated for pulling off the world’s largest measurement system, they have faced more criticism with the transition of TAM to BARC. But more or less he seemed satisfied. “I feel that this is a great roadmap forward for two three years. There is a lot of learning. Any kind of change takes time,” said Sinha, Chairman of the technical committee of BARC.
Joshi moved on to Dasgupta probing him on the volatility of BARC’s data of being all over the place compared to TAM. “On supply side we change storyline; we create big shows with effects. In fact things change every day from supply and demand side. That’s normal. We give the data the way it is. That’s how it would be and that’s how it should be,” Dasgupta made his point clear.
Nayak offered a different point of view and believes that the volatility comes not from GECs but mostly from the niche channels. “For small niche channels you (BARC) need to do a four week rolling average for the data to be relevant,” he says. Dasgupta agreed to it and mentioned that they are working on it.
Nayak also urged the agency to put out separate data for urban and rural areas as this would help broadcasters monetise their shows better. "Broadcasters want as much value from the data as possible, which you don't provide now. I would want separate data for urban and rural areas. It is important for us to know in which market what is working," he said.
In addition he stressed the need for separate data for pay channels and free-to-air (FTA) ones as that would be useful for broadcasters. "I do not think it is fair to put FTA and pay channels in the same bucket as one provides original content while FTA channels are basically re-run of old shows. Also BARC's work is to roll out data, now to say which channel is number one or two,” he voiced his concern.
Joshi ventured into another important topic of having a separate rural and urban monetization. Nayak gave his inputs on how digital can be monetized now that his company Viacom18 has recently launched its OTT platform--- Voot. “We are content creators and we will bundle ourselves and rake as much as possible. I am even of the opinion that rural and urban should be sold separately, why should we have same selling if there are different measurements available,” added Nayak.
Dasgupta was gung-ho about measuring content across platforms whether it’s digital or radio, to offer a more composite study from next year onwards. “We are moving towards a cross-platform system to measure audio-visual content across platforms such as mobile phones, iPads, laptops, over-the-top platforms to put out a more composite study from next year. The technology is not difficult as we have already figured that out. But with some companies keeping data close to their chest, we have to find a way to engage them. We are working towards that. In fact today is the last day for the submission of the RFPs for digital measurement. Earlier we moved towards impressions in TV ratings as well," offered the BARC CEO. Interestingly in order to address measurement of English language channels, Dasgupta added that BARC was contemplating setting up an affluent panel that would comprise of only the relevant audience.
Sinha in his remarks added, “Our game plan is to get all guys aligned and for the user everything will be integrated.” He feels the need to ramp up despite the fact that technology has always been an issue, “The idea is to enter the home and capture data.”
Nayak offered, “We are measuring content not viewership. There is no dichotomy. You may not mix and match every platform but the measurement is there."
Both Sinha and Dasgupta spoke at length about measures being taken to flag abnormalities in viewing patterns of panel homes. “There is an algorithm in the back end that screens for abnormal behaviour in panel homes. We investigate whether there is a content-led reason for the abnormality, and if there isn’t, we quarantine the home and monitor it closely on the ground. If and when we have enough proof, we take legal action against the said panel home. Channels found flouting any of the BARC guidelines or found guilty of malpractice regarding TV measurement have been blocked from the ratings system for up to six months. We have sleuth agencies doing all the ground work,” Dasgupta explained.
On minister Prasad’s comments Dasgupta defended BARC’s machinery, "BARC follows government guidelines on the matter. We have expanded the coverage with a doubling of sample homes to 20,000 with a 10 per cent surplus, and plan to expand the sample size to 30,000 by next year. It’s to be noted that around the world, in terms of scale, we have the larger sample in the world. We also have the least advertising revenue”
“BARC works under a roadmap whose guidelines are specified by the sector regulator TRAI,” pointed out Sinha.
There was a time when Joshi questioned Dasgupta on the authenticity of his data. “Relative errors are a part of statistics and this is sampling which has cost implications.”
Chawla shared his experience on sampling and said, “Economics does make a sense in this line of business, which is solely data oriented.”
Joshi revealed BARC’s next big plan called Broadcast India and asked its CEO to share some insights on it. BARC had contracted Nielson India for the same. “It’s the largest universe study based on the survey of 300,000 homes to shortlist a sample size of 20,000 homes around the country. This is the base and then the meters come in. The survey will be undertaken in few weeks from now,” offered Dasgupta.
It must be mentioned that BARC India was set up in 2012 with the specific purpose of designing, commissioning, supervising and owning the television audience measurement system.
It is jointly promoted by three apex industry bodies -- Indian Broadcasting Foundation (60 per cent), Indian Society of Advertisers (20 per cent) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (20 per cent).