Are digital numbers the surrogate currency for TV news in the absence of ratings?

Amidst the ratings blackout, measurement parameters such as ‘highest viewership’ have changed to new indices such as ‘most viewed’, ‘most followed’ or ‘most shared’.

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: May 17, 2021 9:29 AM

Digital news consumption has been on the rise. In fact, legacy media brands in the traditional media space such as TV are as popular in the online ecosystem and they are also leveraging their online popularity for integrated deals and as temporary currency in the absence of BARC data. How does that work?

Amidst the ratings blackout, measurement parameters such as ‘highest viewership’ have changed to new indices such as ‘most viewed’, ‘most followed’ or ‘most shared’.

The counting day, for instance, had Zee announce their Bengali property as ‘No 1 yet again with highest interactions on social media’; News18 Bangla said they recorded the highest video views on Facebook and Youtube and ABP Ananda claimed they were the ‘most viewed and most followed channel on social media once again.'

Has the industry found a proxy currency till BARC numbers for the genre are back?

“Be it the election time or simply a news heavy period, getting labelled as the number one news channel has always been a priority for broadcasters. A lot rides on the ratings be it your ad rates or your market share or positioning. The absence of news viewership ratings has deprived the players of the attention that comes with being in the top five. Having no ratings have been an advantage for smaller players who, for once, have the opportunity to be judged by their content and not their reach but the top players have found a way to retain their ‘No 1’ tag even if it is just for their digital offerings,” said an industry insider.

While news channels are clearly flaunting their digital numbers, does the online demand also reflect the channel’s popularity?

“Most millennials are consuming news on digital now. The channel's digital reach/popularity is based on how factually and without bias they report news online. Their digital ratings do reflect their popularity and brands do feel more confident with publishing houses that have a strong digital presence. They feel like they get additional reach through these digital numbers and are able to reach more people than they would have if they depended just on TV.” Said Rajni Daswani, Director, Brand Experience and Employee Engagement at So Cheers.

Times Network however doesn’t agree with the notion: “While we are proud that we enjoy the highest viewership in our genre, we don’t feel the need to validate our popularity using surrogates such as numbers from digital platforms to project our brand salience. We continue to provide the best in class content without prejudice and work tirelessly to fight fear with facts. Our viewers and advertisers know us for what we are.”

The network believes that the advertisers seek source credibility and context more than viewership numbers when evaluating news channels.

How do advertisers actually look at digital numbers though? Does the number help TV channels secure more ad deals?

“Only digital reach numbers might not help in securing TV deals. But audience demographics, psychographics, social media numbers help brands understand the audience consuming the shows or channels better. I think going forward, channels can look at smartTV reach numbers to give the brand an idea of the channels reach and audience insights. This will also help in offering integrated deals to brands which can be used by them for incremental reach planning,” said Mihir Mehta, Head - Reserve Media and Programmatic at iProspect.

Digital numbers reflect not only the reach but also the kind of audience who are consuming content on the news websites. If it matches the audience that brands are targeting, it also creates popularity for the brand which many a time translates into a preference for the TV channel.

In a fast-evolving media space with slimming boundaries between traditional and online media, one offering benefits the other. It helps the brand secure more integrated deals, giving clients a more heterogeneous reach and thus more value for money.

“Most news houses now club their TV deals with digital deliverables, which does help them secure deals with brands. For example, With XX TV spots, you also get 2-3 digital articles and social posts, enabling brands to not just get TV the exposure but exposure to their digital followers as well. Brands who don’t have that sort of TG on their own digital channels, see this as a plus and do go for deals that give them multiple cross deliverables,” said Daswani.

However, experts also suggest that the trend of using numbers for TV and digital interchangeably is only temporary as factors like audience, geographies, etc. are different for both mediums and being the number one on digital cannot secure advertisements for the news channel on a long term basis.


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