BARC move on Free & Pay channel viewership evokes applause, but raises some eyebrows too

While some say any data that's convertible into intelligence is welcome, others feel BARC should have consulted the stakeholders

e4m by Anjali Thakur
Updated: Jul 9, 2019 8:10 AM

The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India on Monday announced that it would soon start reporting viewership of Free & Pay platforms separately.

The new Pay & Free platform variable will be offered over and above the current Urban and Rural cuts that are reported by BARC India. It will be made available to all the subscribers for planning and analysis through BARC’s proprietary BARC Media Workstation Software. It will also be published on the website for select genres.

exchange4media spoke to industry honchos to find out what they think about the announcement.

According to Ritu Dhawan, MD & CEO, India TV, any data that's convertible into intelligence should always be welcomed. And she hopes the same comes true in this case as well.

“Though it’s early in the day to comment on its utility, the team anticipates that among other insights, this particular development may be able to add another dimension to the resource deployment matrix, particularly in certain specific segments, geographically & otherwise,” says Dhawan.

“Additionally, this may also help getting a more refined perspective on the rural markets, specifically because of free dish and its huge impact on these markets, along with insights on viewership of pay channels especially in rural areas. This may lead to some course corrections by both free and pay channels,” she adds.

A free connection is one where the household incurs only a small one-time fee for installing the set-top box. The major player in this area is DD Free Dish. The household does not pay any monthly subscription fee. Whereas a Pay connection is one where the subscriber invests an initial amount for installation and an on-going monthly subscription fee.

Echoing Dhawan’s comment, Manav Dhanda, Group CEO, SAB Group, says the timing of the move is really interesting.

“However, it’s too early to comment what will be the consequences. Only time will tell whether it will be a benefit or a setback for the Free Dish broadcasters. Advertiser will now have to look at the Free Dish consumers against the paid consumers,” says Dhanda.

“Broadcasters should focus on growing across all segmentations. I hope this move will help them in that direction and will not be contrary to some broadcasters’ business opportunity,” he adds.

Reporting viewership from Pay and Free platforms separately would enable focused targeting. Advertisers can plan more effectively by placing insertions on the channels in the respective regions. Broadcasters can also make more informed decisions pertaining to content and distribution.

While some welcomed the move, the decision also received its share of criticism.

Expressing unhappiness over the move, a senior industry player said, “How can BARC arbitrarily decide on its own? Have they discussed it with the industry, open forums or AGMs? We are all stakeholders in their reporting. I don’t know the impact of such reporting. It’s not about creating (data) in terms of percentage, but one should also consider how will the industry interpret this data.  Is it adding value at all? Any such move in the industry is more than welcome, but they are making changes every 2-3 weeks… sometimes they consider landing pages, sometimes they don’t. Such moves only erode the credibility of the rating system,” he said.

BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta, however, says that there has been a strong demand from the market for separate reporting of viewership from homes with Pay & Free connection.

“We have taken the market feedback in consideration with the changes that have come about in the ecosystem post the implementation of the New Tariff Order. We believe this move is a step in the right direction to empower the industry in understanding the distinct consumption patterns of this segment and plan more effectively,” says Dasgupta.

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