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Guest Column: Would the NCCS discriminate viewership for niche channels in the new TV measurement system?

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Guest Column: Would the NCCS discriminate viewership for niche channels in the new TV measurement system?

With the introduction of the new measurement ratings system BARC just around the corner, there is a possibility that TV viewership in the NCCS (New Consumer Classification System) classification could be less discriminatory than the old SEC.

In such a case, a lack of variation could be detrimental to the fortunes of smaller and special interest channels that have always relied on affinity indices (or skews) to get included in a TV plan.

TV media planning essentially involves using viewership from the recent past to predict a schedule’s performance in the future. While stability is a term that is often harped as required for data, one of the primary facets of TV viewership data that keeps introducing change in a plan is variation across time. It is the small tweaks in TV viewership that happen day after day that pose a challenge to the media planner in scheduling for the future. She has to first of all explain as much as she can of this variance and build guardrails in her TV plan. Besides this variation across time on all dimensions, a media planner looks for variation across three reported dimensions-

• Gender
• Age Groups
• Socio Economic Groups

Gender and Age Groups discriminate viewership but understandably to a limited extent within the Indian household milieu. India being a predominantly single TV household limits the discriminatory ability of these variables. Planners and marketers understand that and have devised several alternate thumb-rules to get over these limitations.

It is the limited discriminatory ability of the erstwhile SEC system that has been the biggest grouse of planners and marketers alike. “Why does the SEC A and SEC C plan look the same?” Every planner worth his salt has encountered that question. Additionally, most TV plans in India are manually constructed. Given the combinatorial complexity of 450+ channels, it is but impossible for a schedule to be built manually on an incremental reach basis. Broad simplification rules are used in constructing the schedule. Couple this with the coarse ability of the old SEC to discriminate viewership, and one ended up with similar looking plans.

The new television measurement system, BARC, comes with viewership estimated on the NCCS. It would not have any reporting on the old SEC.

We wanted to check how discriminatory of TV viewership could the NCCS be versus the old SEC.

Let’s begin by getting the basics out of the way. SEC classification is based on profiling population basis the Education and Occupation of the Chief Wage Earner (CWE). NCCS is based on profiling basis Education of the CWE and durable ownership in her household.

The table below shows the dispersion of urban HHs in the old SEC as well in the NCCS. To enable comparison, we have only considered TV owning urban households. Additionally, the data used for the NCCS is from the Indian Readership Survey. While BARC might be triangulating other information sources in arriving at its spread of NCCS, we presume that the IRS numbers would be directionally similar.



The first stark thing one notices is that the Pyramid in the old SEC has become an Inverted Pyramid in the NCCS. In the NCCS, there are more ‘A’ households (the premium ones) than before!

Additionally, because the ‘A’ in the NCCS will now be comprised of households from the old SEC B, C and DE (and it would have lost some of the old SEC A), it might make sense to see how the new order would look like. For illustration, we have shown two cases – the composition of NCCS A and NCCS B:



The first thing one notices is that the NCCS A comprises of only 41% of the old SEC A. In fact, it has 22% of its HHs coming from the old SEC DE. The composition of NCCS B is even more skewed with 28% HHs from the old SEC DE. This, we believe, could have a major implication of reducing the variation of ratings across SECs. Why is this variation important? As stated earlier, in the manual TV planning world, if one were to just go by ratings and CPRPs while planning for SEC A and B, niche channels would never figure in the plan. For years media planners have used affinity indices to justify a niche genre’s inclusion in the television plan. It is often argued that these channels reach premium audiences in metros and mini-metros. The affinity index for say an English movie channel would be computed as follows-

Affinity Index for, say, HBO = (HBO Rating in SEC AB)/ (HBO Rating in CS 4+)

It is crucial that the viewership of HBO in SEC AB is as discriminated as possible versus the total TV viewing audience for it to have a high index.

Now if the rating of a niche channel in the upper SECs were very similar to that of the overall TV viewing audience, then its discriminatory aspect would get blunted. Our fear is that this might happen in the NCCS within the new measurement system.

Shown below is say, the viewership of Star Plus across the old SECs and its variation in the current TV measurement system, TAM. The variation of the rating is computed by the index, Standard Deviation / Mean. 



Now given the re-composition of the new NCCS as discussed earlier, wherein say NCCS A would comprise of not only the old SEC A but also population from the old SEC B, C and DE, if one were to recast the old SEC ratings above into the new NCCS by a simple weighted average the following ensues-



The most interesting thing here is that the Standard Deviation / Mean for Star Plus has halved, which means it delivers more uniformly across the new NCCS than in the old SEC. No big deal for a mainline channel which in any case was being chosen in a TV plan on its ability to deliver sheer volume of ratings. However, let’s look at the case for a niche channel like say, NGC.



The Standard Deviation / Mean has gone down by 25% in NCCS versus the old SEC! What this implies is that it would more uniformly across SECs than the old system. It is but obvious therefore, that the skew, or affinity index of a channel like this, in NCCS, would be lower than the old SEC system.

A couple more cases on special interest channels validate this even more starkly.

There is, in general, no TV plan that includes the premium niche channels to deliver in SEC DE. They have often been included in TV plans solely on the basis of the affinity index or skew in SEC A and SEC B to a limited extent. The flattening out of that skew poses a potential danger to the special interest and smaller channels. In a uniform world, it’s always the larger, high channel share channels that would get included in a plan. Additionally, when the standard deviation / mean reduces, it also implies that schedules across socio economic segments would look even more similar!


The new TV measurement system comes on the back of modern technology and a substantially increased sample size. As we stand at the cusp of its launch it is important to not only look up with hope but also elucidate one’s fears. One possible fear that I have spoken about here is whether the NCCS will discriminate viewership adequately across audience segments.


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