Two months into BARC data blackout: Are news channels happy with no ratings?

The blackout actually turned out to be a sort of breather period in the endless cycles of chasing and flaunting TRPs for both big and small networks

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published: Dec 15, 2020 8:35 AM  | 4 min read
tv news

Thursdays have come and gone and felt no different without ratings of news channels. Amid controversies surrounding viewership data of TV news channels, BARC had announced a 12- week blackout period of no ratings for the genre. While some networks heads felt the blackout period would eliminate anomalies in the system others were unhappy about the development and called the decision unfair. But it’s been almost two months and it’s been business as usual with no hue and cry over ratings. Broadcasters or any broadcasting body has not made any request for bringing back ratings earlier. So, have most of them just made peace with the idea or is ‘no ratings’ working better for them? Turns out it’s the latter for some of the popular networks.

“Our full focus is on content as we are not stressed about Thursday ratings. This cuts down the chaos and makes both business and editorial output better,” said a senior source from a popular news network.

Interestingly however, broadcasters are not looking at a rating-free ecosystem. “We invest a sizeable chunk of our revenues in running BARC so we expect the body to help us with fair ratings so that we can use it to run our business better. It must be a two-way road,” said the head of a popular news network.

But till the ratings are not back broadcasters are managing to put up a good show of numbers. News broadcasters managed to pull off better numbers in ad bills even without ratings in the festive season pushing overall AdEx in the genre. Interestingly, as per the latest TAM AdEx data, between August and November this year (which includes one and half month of the blackout period), the news genre recorded the highest growth in advertising. The genre clocked a growth of 28%.

The blackout actually turned out to be a sort of breather period in the endless cycles of chasing and flaunting TRPs, creating not just better scope for content strategy but also more opportunity for smaller networks who never managed to make it to the top five on the Thursday charts of BARC.

In the past as well, BARC blackout periods have not had any detrimental impact on ad bills. In the first half of 2019, BARC had gone into a blackout period of not releasing viewership data on public platforms when the industry was migrating to TRAI’s new tariff order. While NTO had deep-seated impact on operations and revenue for news broadcasters, the blackout did not create any problem in business as such.

A host of smaller news broadcasters feel that this is their opportunity to break stereotypes and make a space for themselves outside the scope of ratings.

“Finally there is a level playing ground. We are now not competing with a channel or number one or number two. We are competing on the basis of content and that has also reflected on our business. We have sold out 100% of our inventory in the festive period even with no ratings to show to prospective clients,” said a senior marketing officer from a smaller Hindi news network.

The only impact the blackout period has had is on ‘ad rates’. As per sources involved in ad sale related decision making in news networks, ad rates have remained the same and no new negotiations have happened with advertisers.

“Ratings help in negotiations because there is a huge difference in ad rates of all slots between the top five channels. Suspension of ratings has also narrowed the window of charging premium. However ratings from the past few months are still valid,” said another source.

However, there are some isolated networks that have not taken the blackout period to well.

NBF had issued a statement objecting BARC’s decision. “The decision is unilateral, one-sided and undemocratic, impacting and targeting one single genre within the broadcasting ecosystem,” the statement said.

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