Broadcasters write to BARC on ‘Unusual’ rise of TV9 ratings

NBA and NBF write to ratings body about unexplained spikes in TV viewership

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published: Jul 10, 2020 9:12 AM  | 4 min read

Broadcasters have written to BARC India to report a suspected anomaly in ratings of certain news channels.

While a letter written by News Broadcasters Association (NBA) to BARC clearly mentions the unprecedented growth in TV9's ratings even when other channels show significant drop in numbers, the News Broadcasters Federation (NBF) too has expressed concerns on the possible impact of fluctuating ratings.

The NBF letter, accessed by e4M, said, “Some of our member companies, FTA news channels, solely rely on BARC for the ratings as the only currency to convert into advertising – the predominant source of revenue for our channels. Several of our channels have raised concerns over the past few weeks on the drop in ratings.”

The letter written out on Monday further stated, “On analyzing the BARC data from week of 21, we notice there is a significant change in ratings, which is a matter of grave concern for us, more so during the current pandemic-driven economic crisis, since it determines our survivability. The drop in ratings, as has been witnessed in the past five weeks, threatens our existence while it also raises the issue of transparency and accountability on the BARC reporting of the FTA news genre ratings.”

According to NBF, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the following lockdown in several parts of the country, FTA news channels have invested heavily in putting in more resources to cover the situation – a fact that had been recognized by the increase in viewership, time spent, and ratings in the first eight weeks of the lockdown, by BARC. Thus a sudden drop in numbers puts the channels in a spot.

Acknowledging the 274 % increase in news genre viewership during Week 12 and 13 (Avg. Wk Imp. 8129 Million) compared to Week 2-4 (Average weekly impression 2172 million), BARC replied to NBF’s letter saying, “BARC India’s rating helps the stakeholders to make better advertisement investments and not a sole influencer of revenue to the stakeholders. BARC has received queries from some of its subscribers, including few members of NBF, and it was responded to them with our feedback based on the viewership data. BARC India, from data collection viewpoint, do not differentiate between paid and free to air channels and the viewership data published is ‘What India Watches’”.

Pointing out to statistics, BARC said even while the news genre data during the recent 5-week period, from Week 21-25 which garnered an average weekly impression of 4053 million as compared to Week 16-20 which garnered an average weekly impression of 5427 million; when compared to pre-covid impression for Week 2 to 4, the impression for Week 21 to 25 is 87% higher than the usual.

However, the letter written by the other body mentions how even as news viewership has been declining almost consistently on all parameters from week 12 to week 25 for instance where news time spend declined by 36%, TV9 numbers increased by huge 59%.

The NBA letter said, "While TV news industry saw an unprecedented growth in week 12/13 with maximum TSV,oddly TV9 has got its max TSV in week 25 when more people are back to work and unlock has happened,more surprisingly it has higher contribution from urban than rural."

The letter also pointed out the fact that  "It is well known that legacy brands have an advantage during LIVE and fast unfolding news events of national importance.However this week Chinese troops related news and actor Sushant suicide which was the biggest in the recent two weeks have not given the legacy brands as much benefit as it has given to TV9 suddenly."

When e4m reached out to BARC about the matter, the ratings body said, "BARC India is an industry body and the stakeholders and constituents will discuss and deliberate on the concerns if any, between institutions. BARC reports what India watches on television. Each week’s data release is undertaken with all due statistical and security validation."

Comment from TV 9 was awaited at the time of filing this story and shall be updated once received.

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