In a surprising development, CNBC TV18 has toppled Times Now from the position of the most watched English news channel in the country. As per BARC ratings (All India (U+R), AB M22+) for week 14 from April 1-7, 2017, CNBC TV18 clocked 630 (000s) impressions as compared to Times Now’s 562 (000s) impressions. What is described as impressions is “nothing but on an average, in a minute, the total number of people present on a channel/program/event.” The English news segment is divided into two categories, namely, English general news and English business news, by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), an industry body dedicated to television audience measurement.
While Times Now and CNBC TV18 have separately held on to the top position in the English general news and English business news category, respectively, this is probably the first time in recent memory that the latter has outperformed the former to such an extent. Keeping aside the difference in genre, an English general news channel has mostly commanded the pole position across the two genres being broadcasted in the same language. It is no longer the case now. However, the management at Times Network, a strategic business unit (SBU) of Bennett Coleman, is not impressed.
“The situation is an anomaly and not really representative of reality. This has happened after the latest BARC universe update. Even our own business channel ET Now's numbers are up. But in the interest of correct representation, we have brought this to BARC's notice and are awaiting their intervention to correct this,” said MK Anand, MD & CEO at Times Network.
But Network18 contradicted Times Network by insisting that the business news genre had been on “an increasing trend primarily driven by CNBC TV18” since week 3, 2017, much before the expansion of the universe. In week 8, 2017 i.e. February 18-24, BARC updated its universe following a survey aimed towards ascertaining the television viewing habits of Indians. The update in the universe was required to provide the ratings with more accuracy keeping in mind the changing demographics, language preferences and television ownership, among other issues.
Following the universe update, Anand pointed out that the English business news genre had grown by 162% whereas the English news genre only registered 68% growth. As per him, such lopsided growth was bewildering since the general news segment had far more newsworthy events such as the assembly election results in week 11, 2017. BARC India, however, noted that the new Universe Estimate’s (UE) impact on English general news and English business news did not lead to a great amount of divergence.
As per BARC’s All India, AB M22+ target audience data, the growth of English general news and English business news is pegged at 68% and 75%, respectively. The TG referred to herein was also described by BARC as the one which is tracked by news channels and utilised for public dissemination of news. “Also the fact that English business news is a smaller genre with smaller base as compared to English news, looking only at growth percentage may not be appropriate,” said Partho Dasgupta, CEO at BARC. Sharing the breakdown of data chronicling the percentage growth in the proportion of various channels before and after the universe update, BARC opined that there was “near uniform impact” across channels reflecting stability.
Maintaining that the reach of English business news channels had increased in similar proportions, Times Now hit out at CNBC TV18 claiming, “It’s the unnatural spike in time spent which is causing these artificial gains for CNBC TV18. Their average daily TSV (time spent viewing) has jumped from an average of 10 mins (minutes) to 21 mins post the universe update.” According to Anand, such a viewership spike was a “cause of concern” given that “no specific business news events” occurred during the relevant time period. Once again, Network18 felt the opposite. “In fact, there have been several economic and market related developments in 2017. Bullish stock market trends, union budget, passing of the GST Bill, RBI’s annual monetary policy, leadership changes in Tata (Group), to name a few,” Network18 told exchange4media. Going further, it was mentioned that extensive coverage of economically crucial events enabled CNBC TV18 to increase engagement levels.
On the other hand, Anand was quick to point out that CNBC TV18 had experienced 356% average increase in TVTs (television viewership in thousands) post the universe update in “other 1mn+ markets” comprising “smaller 1mn+ markets” including Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Anand insisted that these are not “core markets” for English business news channels. “In week 14, 2017, 247 TVTs out of a total of 560 TVTs (44% of total CNBC TV18 viewership) is coming from this market alone. Most of this increase is due to abnormal TSV in this market,” he added. Holding its ground, CNBC TV18 argued that their viewership during market hours (09:00-16:00 hours) has been ahead of Times Now’s prime time (17:00-24:00 hours) viewership since week 5, 2017.
“Viewership declined for Times Now in the last couple of weeks, which has resulted in CNBC TV18 overtaking Times Now in Wk 14, 2017. In Wk 14, 2017, CNBC TV18’s viewership was higher than Times Now in mega cities as well as 10-17L (lakh) pop strata,” Network18 contended. Citing All India 1Mn+ (Mega Cities+10-75L) trends, they also emphasised leadership over Times Now since week 9, 2017 with the notable exception of week 11, 2017 during which the assembly election results were declared. While the expansion of the sampling universe may have pitted two formidable networks against each other, the ratings agency sounded confident about its findings. “With the new UE, both the number of TV owning households and number of individuals watching TV have seen a significant growth. This growth is seen not just at market level, but also at socio-economic level (NCCS), thus reflecting the changing preferences of viewers. BARC India data reflects these content preferences,” asserted Dasgupta.