Suspending TV ratings now will be a draconian move: Kartikeya Sharma, iTV Network

Sharma, Founder of iTV Network & Vice President of News Broadcasters Federation, shares more on the impact of COVID-19 on the TV news business, the spike in viewership and the advertiser sentiment

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Apr 1, 2020 11:40 AM
Kartikeya Sharma

With the world in the grip of the COVID-19 outbreak, everyone is glued to news channels. And with the current lockdown in place coupled with the panic surrounding the spread of coronavirus, TV news consumption has witnessed a massive spike over the last few weeks.

However, despite this growth it has been reported that BARC India is planning to suspend publication of TV ratings for four weeks.

We spoke to Kartikeya Sharma, Founder of iTV Network and Vice President of the News Broadcasters Federation (NBF), about the proposed move by BARC and functioning of news channels amidst the lockdown.

Edited excerpts:

How has COVID-19 impacted the TV news business?

TV News is facing its own set of challenges and difficulties in the current times, but this is a global problem. In these times the priority is to look at the safety and security of the people involved in the business. At iTV Network, we are doing everything possible to take care of our teams by following strict sanitation protocols. We have also taken precautionary measures by limiting our manpower for now.


We have seen a spike in news viewership, how has that impacted the advertiser sentiment?

The advertiser sentiment will only be clear once the lockdown is over. Yes, people are watching TV news and there was this myth existing for the longest time that TV news is not comparable to GECs. This perception has now been shattered completely and a lot of clarity has definitely come out in these times.

As you know, TV news is always an event-driven business and when there are large events, viewership spikes. A lot of people have again come to the conclusion that TV news has mass appeal, and so have government bodies.

Right now, all I can say is that basic perceptions are getting corrected and a lot of advertising spends were based on these earlier.

In this crisis how is the iTV Foundation helping the COVID-19 affected?

iTV Foundation has been running for almost three years now. We are just enablers, what we are doing is connecting the dots. There are a lot of people who want to help but don't know how to. As a media platform we are bringing people together and we will continue to do so.

It is being said that BARC might suspend ratings for four weeks. What's your take on that?

It will be the most unfortunate thing for the TV news industry that has always struggled to make revenue and given the fact that it is a very capital intensive business.

The perception that news channels don't give enough returns is being trashed right now. But just because GECs cannot put out fresh content it should not mean that news players should be castigated. News viewership is spiking and it's a reality that needs to be accepted. Suspending ratings at such a juncture will be a draconian move.

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