TV9 responds to allegations of ‘unusual’ ratings
CEO Barun Das issues note on NBA and NBF letters to BARC
TV9 CEO Barun Das has given a detailed response on e4M’s story reporting NBA and NBF letters to BARC alleging 'unusual' rise of TV9 ratings.
This refers to the story put out by e4m on Friday about the 11-point letter of the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) complaining to BARC about the consistent rise of TV9 Bharatvarsh. Thanks for seeking my response to this rather amusing charge which cast unfounded aspersions on both BARC as an institution and TV9 Bharatvarsh as a business of integrity. My 11-point response is as follows:
1. I have only the e4m story to go by. I have no official communication from NBA or for that matter from BARC.
2. However, I have seen an unsigned letter purportedly written by NBA, but point number 6 and 7 are missing here.
3. If there is indeed an official letter from NBA to BARC, I would have been happy to have received a copy of the same from NBA so that I could have officially replied to NBA.
4. So at this point, I can only respond to what I have read about the purported letter. That letter, your story tells me, has raised questions on the continued surge of TV9 Bharatvarsh even during the weeks that the news viewership universe shrank. But that is a strange, comparison. Businesses move as per industry but market shares have no relation to industry movements. The two are not always in sync.
5.This suggestion of market manipulation by TV9 Bharatvarsh flies in the face of logic and facts for the following reason. On March 22nd, just when the lockdown was about to begin, I wrote an official letter to NBA proposing that the Industry should suspend the weekly ratings regimen for some time. I felt we would be risking the life of reporters and camerapersons in our quest for ratings during the pandemic. At that time, TV9 Bharatvarsh was a fringe player but the proposition didn’t come from a position of weakness. It came from a position of strength because we have in our bouquet four language channels, all of them leaders in their markets. We were not worrying about ratings then, we were concerned about the health and well-being of all frontline journalists of all news organisations. The very next day I got a revert from NBA rejecting my suggestion.
6. This is a transparent industry. We all have access to BARC ratings; we all have access to the second-by-second content of every competitor in logger. Each one of us can analyse…and all of us do analyse every week. That TV9 Bharatvarsh’s content was dissected second by second is evident in the fact that I see the content that was giving us ratings is now flooding the prime-time of other channels .
7. Yes, we got lucky in that. Our relaunch plans scheduled for January got pushed back to 16 March. And lockdown happened a week later. Common sense would tell you that the success of a new, redesigned channel depends on extensive sampling. In the normal course that kind of sampling would have happened over 8 to 9 months. But because of the explosion in news viewership in the first few weeks of the lockdown, we got the benefit of, say 10x sampling in 10 weeks.
8. Television news industry is replete with examples of channels that made a mark riding on a crisis/calamity. Think AajTak and Bhuj earthquake, ABP and Mumbai floods, TimesNow and 26/11 etc. We were the only channel which relaunched pre-COVID with new look, new programming, aggressive marketing on regional local channels and digital platforms (our strategy has now being followed by competition just like they are trying to replicate our content formulations) and better distribution (for instance our position on DD free dish changed because somebody vacated their position and you can trace back our growth to the day this change happened on DD free dish).
9. Our focus on content, its packaging and delivery has paid us rich dividends as did our conscious attempt to stay ahead of events. We sensed the world’s anger against China for spreading COVID 19 even as it was just building in India. We put China and every act of its commission and omission under the microscope. Having already taken a strong anti-China line on COVID, we were the natural beneficiaries of the extreme anger against China when it dared kill our soldiers in Galwan. Really, there is no magic or manipulation. Just business basics at work.
10. It’s never a good feeling for established players to see an upstart rise under their nose. I wouldn’t like it either. But I wouldn’t let my dislike cloud my business judgment. I would just follow the best practice or create a better practice.
11. Last but not the least, as far as TV9 Bharatvarsh is concerned, it is still work in progress.
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