There is high support & goodwill to ensure BARC currency is respected: Sunil Lulla

Lulla, CEO of BARC India, addresses key topics such as TV viewership in the lockdown, the impact of data blackout period on the news genre and meter tampering

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Updated: Dec 8, 2020 9:48 AM
sunil lulla

Sunil Lulla, CEO of BARC India, asserts that TV will continue to remain the most effective medium to reach people across the country. He articulates the trends in TV viewership during the COVID pandemic and gives us the lowdown on what has been a great season for the IPL in terms of viewership. Lulla also maintains that the recent incidents involving tampering of meters have strengthened the resolve of all stakeholders to come together to add to growing the process and rigour BARC deploys.

  1.  How has the second half of the year been in terms of television viewership as compared to the first half? 

Television continues to be the most effective medium to reach people across the country.  H1 2020 experienced never-ever-before like lockdown, due to COVID-19. Audiences spent significantly more time viewing television, with viewing peaking to record levels, like never before. In the period of end March 2020 to early June 2020, with schools shut, the workplace shut, the marketplace shut, significant of hours during, ‘Non-Prime time’, 0600 hours to 1800 hours were spent on television.  Week 1-26, 2020 witnessed a significant increase of 13.7% in NPT as compared to the first half of 2019. Primetime viewership grew by 3.6% in the first half of 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019. Genres like Movies, News and Kids benefitted in the H1 2020. 

India initiated the first phase of unlock in March and gradually from July to September, we have experienced the opening up of transport, work-places and modest recreation. As audiences started re-gearing for many of their activities Pre-COVID, time in front of the Television reduced. 

In the second half – H2 2020 of the year, from week 27-43, 2020, while Prime Time grew by 16.2%, Non-Prime Time grew by 24.3% as compared to the same period in 2019. As of week 46, Genre share for Movies is 23% which is at the same level as Pre-COVID while Genre share for GEC is 56%, up from 52% Pre-COVID. 

2. During the lockdown period, we have seen news genres growing the most as compared to the GECs. What is the scenario now? Which are the key genres driving viewership growth? 

Let’s answer the news genre first – key points – in week 13, 14 news viewing increased to 21% and came down to 14/15% only in June / July and is now lower. The increase was due to NPT viewing, more viewers in % i.e not there in 2019 – we have enough snippets of news from our Edition series too. News viewing is now back to 8-9%. Put the other genres as they stand now (some of it is below) – viewing from megacities for news grew/ viewing grew from markets.

During the lockdown, considering the lack of original programming, broadcasters brought back classics such as Mahabharat and Ramayana. Ramayana week 46 data GEC at 56% > pre COVID; News at 7% = pre COVID; Movies at 23% = pre COVID. Kids at 7.1% > pre-COVID that dominated TV screens and mythological shows clearly were the winners. Given the pandemic, news consumption also increased as viewers tuned in to news channels to stay abreast on the situation in the country as well as their state. The genre grew from 7% to 21% during the lockdown and is now back to 7% as unlock was implemented.  

With original programming making a comeback, primetime viewership too increased. In addition to this, viewership for kids’ genre has seen growth from – 6.6 pre-COVID to 6.7 in Week 12 to 7.1 in Week 46. Overall, the number of unique viewers and average time spent on TV have increased. 

3. BARC data on IPL clearly indicates this season is better than the last one in terms of viewership. Can you share some interesting data points from IPL this year? Or viewership/ ad volume trends which are different this year? 

IPL-13 surpassed the viewership of IPL 12 by 23% with a total viewership of 400bn viewing minutes as compared to 326bn viewing minutes. Average Viewership per match too increased by 23%. A total of 405 mn viewers watched the series this year. 

The opening match of IPL13 registered 11.2bn viewing minutes, a staggering growth of 65% over the previous edition. Average impressions have seen a growth of 29% with 52mn average impressions versus 40.3mn average impressions the previous year. The reach for the opening match seen 21% growth versus the previous year.  

On the advertising front, there was a 4% increase in ad volumes for channels that were common to the 2019 and 2020 season.  While the top five sectors were almost the same, new sectors were seen advertising this year. The opening match of Mumbai Indians versus the Chennai Super Kings was the most viewed opening match as compared to IPL-12 and IPL-11. With 11.2 billion viewing minutes, viewership of the opening match was up by a mammoth 65% as compared to the opening match in IPL-12. MI vs CSK match also witnessed 158 million unique viewers tuning in to watch the match a 21% growth as compared to the previous year. 106mn unique viewers watched the first six weeks of IPL, a growth of 10% from 96 Mn in IPL-12. Average Time Spent too went up by 13% in the first six weeks from 36:22 minutes to 41:15 minutes.  

4. How do you think the data blackout period will impact business for news channels and the overall industry? Can you take us through the steps that are being followed during this period? 

In the light of the recent developments, BARC Board had proposed that it’s Technical Committee (Tech Comm) review and augment the current standards of measuring and reporting the data of niche genres, to improve their statistical robustness and to significantly reduce the incentive for infiltration of panel homes. The Technical Committee is actively collaborating with the industry and experts as well on Quality Data Reporting Standards, for Niche, including News.  

5. There were talks in the earlier part of the year of increasing the number of Bar-o-meters. What according to you is the long-term solution against tampering of BARC meters? Can Return Path Data solve the problem?

Due to lockdown and COVID-19, expansion of the panel was temporarily paused. We have initiated expansion and are progressing across markets. BARC encourages self-regulation, which is in the code and the contract with subscribers. The solution lies in adherence to the spirit and the word of the code and the signed end-user license agreement (EULA). 

6. BARC is an important body for the entire industry. How did all the stakeholders respond to the recent case? 

BARC provides the data on which advertising is monetised by channels and paid for by advertisers, basis planning and buying undertaken by the channels. There is very high support and goodwill to ensure the currency continues to be respected and be stable. These incidents make all stakeholders come together to add to growing the process and rigour BARC deploys on behalf of the industry. 

7. There is little clarity on whether BARC will release the data for the restricted period towards the end of 12 weeks or will it be a complete blackout? 

The Tech Comm is considering all aspects of Data Quality Reporting and will consider the same.

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