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Why did BARC restrict access to TV viewership data for non-subscribers?

Experts believe that the measurement body doesn't want data to be granular and might want to control its accessibility

by Sonam Saini
Published - Jun 21, 2021 8:23 AM Updated- Jun 21, 2021 9:09 AM

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Last week, the television measurement body Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India introduced a major change in its format of publishing viewership data on its website. The measurement body did not publish genre-wise data for non-subscribers and now on, it will only post market-wise data, starting June 5, 2021.  

Unlike the previous format, BARC India will not provide Average Minute Audience (AMA'000) for the top ten channels or top five programs. It will only publish viewership data for the top ten channels on an All India basis and top five channels market-wise. And along with this, the top ten advertisers and brands data of the week will be available for non-subscribers. 

In response to the exchange4media's email on the intent to change the format. BARC India spokesperson said, "In-line with global best practices and to further align with the currency data provided via YUMI software to the subscribers, BARC India would be moving to publishing Market-wise data on its website, week 23 2021 (i.e. data starting June 5) onwards."  

It added: "Please note that the purpose of the data on our website is only to provide a top-line view to interested non-subscribers and as in the past, we request that you send us your specific queries, and BARC India will respond on a case to case basis based on internal policy."

However, the industry experts, who are both subscribers and non-subscribers of BARC India data, believe that the reasons behind BARC reducing the availability of the TV viewership data publicly could be because they want to control the accessibility of data. 

"There could be various reasons behind this decision but I think it's more to do with the data. They don't want to go very granular. BARC is being diplomatic about giving the data- it's like they are giving data to non-subscribers but it's not very detailed. It will difficult to gauge now since we don't what is happening with other channels apart from the top five until BARC itself provides that data which also not very clear," said an industry analyst on the condition of anonymity. 

Though the subscribers of BARC will continue to receive data in the way they did before, non-subscribers, which includes the media houses, analysts, and others, will now have to depend on BARC for most of the data.  Another senior media executive said that the subscribers get the detailed data according to market, time-slot or TG- wise. But on the websites, it's top-five shows or channels based on NCCS All: +2 individual. Conflicts between broadcasters over this could have led to the step taken by BARC.

The decision to change the format was also discussed in 2016-17 but couldn't be implemented. A source close to the measurement body said, "BARC tried something similar a few years back, but TRAI at that time had pushed back and ensured  BARC could not implement it. Back then, news data still used to come out, and news channels were also involved with TRAI. Now with news channels out, BARC has decided to go ahead." 

Earlier, BARC published data separately for the free platform and pay platform, which they started from week 27 of 2019. Though it still is available to the subscribers for planning and analysis, it will not be published on the website for select genres.  A senior media executive of the leading broadcast company who is also the subscriber of BARC's YUMI Software shared that many subscribers haven't paid to BARC in the past 6-7 months.

Also, last week, News Broadcasters Federation (NBF) wrote to BARC requesting them not to terminate the End User License Agreement (EULA) with news channels for non-payment of BARC fees. "Many broadcasters owe subscription money to BARC which has been pending for a long time now and they use that data which is published on the websites for planning and promotions. This could also be one reason behind BARC taking such a step because the subscribers or platforms that have done individual deals are getting without any hassle."

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