Zee Media's BARC pull-out evokes mixed response

BARC India Chairman Sinha said the council will hold discussions with ZMCL about its decision to pull out of the measurement system

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Oct 3, 2022 8:36 AM  | 4 min read

Zee Media Corporation Limited's (ZMCL) decision to exit the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India's audience measurement system over the landing page issue has evoked mixed responses from the industry.

On Friday, ZMCL sent an email to BARC communicating its decision to withdraw from the rating system. Citing landing pages as the biggest concern, the network stated that BARC India has done precious little to curb this alleged unethical practice.

Speaking to e4m, BARC India Chairman Shashi Sinha said the council will hold discussions with the network to understand its point of view. On the landing page issue, Sinha pointed out that the matter is presently sub-judice. He also stated that there is no stay on the usage of landing pages.

"Most of these guys have done landing pages when it suits them. In the last 10 years, the majority of the channels would have done landing pages. Now if someone is doing it they are cribbing," he argued.

He added that the audience measurement body can't do anything about the landing pages beyond a point. "There is only so much that we can do with the algorithm. If the MIB or the TRAI says that landing pages are not allowed, then it's simpler for us. But the matter is in the Supreme Court. We have been tarnished, but 80% of the channels would have used landing pages. So the principle has been established," he elaborated.

On the solutions being offered by stakeholders to tackle the landing page issue, Sinha said that the BARC Board will have to take a call. "News is a very small part of the overall pie. It is 6-7% of the total GRPs. All the big broadcasters are using landing pages. BARC Board will take it up if it is a big issue but if it is not a big issue, then why will they discuss it? I can tell you that it is not a big issue for the BARC Board," he disclosed.

Sharing some of the advertisers’ point of view on the issue, Parle Products Senior Category Head Krishnarao Buddha feels that the presence on the landing page does give an unfair advantage to the channels that use it. That said, he added that the advertisers have to go by viewership metrics when it comes to deploying media spends.

"Ultimately, advertisers look at numbers irrespective of where the viewership is coming from. We are concerned about this issue as an advertiser because we would want the audience measurement agency to be as transparent and as accurate as possible. Landing page-induced viewership is not a true representation of a channel's popularity. If there is a level-playing field, then the channel with better news stories will have the highest share of viewership and we would want to be on that channel," he added.

On Zee Media, Buddha said that the network will not suffer in the near term due to its exit from BARC. However, that will change over a period of time. "Advertisers will continue to advertise on Zee Media channels even if they have pulled out of BARC because it's a legacy brand. However, it will start impacting if it continues for a long time. It will be a challenge for the network to get new advertisers. Old advertisers might still stick with the network," he stated.

He also said that BARC is capable of finding a solution to the landing page issue. "I am sure BARC can find a solution provided it has the willingness to do so," he said.

A senior marketer with a leading FMCG company said ratings are a reflection of what is happening in the market. "Ratings don't just come on their own. You can't blame the system but you have to fix the system because the system is built by you (broadcasters) only. Suddenly, you can't say that the system is wrong," he stated.

He also noted that the news genre is going through a crisis of its own making. The overall pie of TV news is shrinking due to changes in the consumption pattern of the viewers. The diminishing quality of the TV news content didn't help matters either.

"There has been an erosion of viewership that has happened because many viewers have stopped watching news channels. Due to this, the whole pie has become very small and all the players are fighting for a share of this small pie," he explained.

In conclusion, the marketer believes that supporting channels that don't get measured by BARC will kill the rating system.

"The Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) has suggested to its members that channels which are not part of BARC should be avoided. Otherwise, it is going to dilute the entire rating system. We got this system after a lot of effort. The entire industry came together to make it a reality. It is one the most robust rating systems in the world," he added.

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