In June 2013, when broadcasters started suspending their subscriptions from TAM Media, confusion prevailed not only among the advertising and marketing fraternity, but also among the broadcasting community. As in the case of the 10+2 ad cap, broadcasters were divided about ending their subscriptions from TAM Media. However, within few weeks most of them followed the generic mood and withdrew their subscriptions from TAM. The move was opposed by advertising and marketing community as there was (and still is) a lack of credible alternative to television audience measurement in the country.
BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council), an agency which is being projected as a solution/alternative of the current measurement mechanism was formed in 2011. As per the Council, it would put in place a robust, transparent and forward looking mechanism which will represent the actual viewership data on the ground. The agency was the core point of discussion during the time when subscriptions were being suspended. The non-existence of BARC during that time (June 2013) was the prime reason on why broadcasters had to give in to demand of the advertisers, media planners and marketers. Stakeholders claim that the agency will be operational within 2014.
Man Jit Singh, President, IBF and CEO, MSM Group said, “We are delighted with progress on BARC, which is a very complex project covering an establishment study to national trends and television viewing, sample design, technology selection, vendor selection, etc. We are very much on track to be operational in 2014.”
BARC had set up two RFPs (Request For Proposals) for its operation to ensure the entirety of the coverage. The first is the Research RFP, which includes research, sampling, household trends, etc. The second is the Technology RFP, which mandates the best hardware technology available. Reportedly, the agency had shortlisted five media research agencies to advise it on the technology required to put in place an accurate and reliable system. The agencies are Kantar Media, Neilson India, Civolution, Cross-Tab and DA Media. Although senior sources in the industry have confirmed that all the partners are for different purposes and unless official contracts are not awarded partners may change. According to very credible and senior sources the contracts are likely to be given in the first week of January 2014.
BARC has been busy in organising open house sessions across the country. This, according to the agency, is an effort to reach out to all the stakeholders. BARC will start with 20,000 people meters and is eventually planning to increase the number every year.
Arvind Sharma, President, AAAI shared, “We have figured out the technology which will be going forward with us. We are moving ahead with testing parameters. We are planning to double the sample size from what we are operating with currently and we are committed to provide the most robust mechanism of measurement.”
IBF’s Singh added here, “BARC will vastly improve the quality of data available to the industry by increasing the number of meters installed and improving the technology for monitoring from those machines. In addition, there will be complete transparency for all industry participants on the methodology used and a vigorous enforcement to ensure the integrity of the data.”
Few advertisers and media planners have also indicated that they welcome a new measurement agency. Although nothing about BARC and its operating mechanism has been disclosed, it is likely that the various facets of the operation mechanism will be revealed about the agency after the official contracts are awarded to its partners.
A senior automobile advertiser remarked, “We are looking forward to BARC in a big way. For a spender on media platforms, accountability of the money he is spending is important. The broadcasters are not satisfied with the current ratings mechanism. A lot of that dissatisfaction has got to do with monopoly, which is bad in any market. BARC would also end monopoly in a way.” The advertiser also indicated that Nielsen would be a common partner for both BARC and TAM. On being asked whether that would create distrust, he said, “It is just like a service centre, where a single mechanic can service more than one car. So, that is not a problem.”
Funding of BARC
Another question which has been asked consistently about BARC is the funding aspect of the mechanism. Where will the funds for the agency come from, when the current ratings agency provider alleges that broadcasters do not give enough funds to expand?
It is learnt from highly placed sources in the industry that debt funding from the stakeholders is in place. BARC has AAAI, IBF and ISA as its prime stakeholders. Although there is no official confirmation on this fact, some senior sources in the broadcast fraternity have shared the information on condition of anonymity.
Arvind Sharma added “We have able to get the start-up fund in segments. We are working to get a robust funding and problems, if any, shall be addressed in due course of time.”