Will absence of ratings hurt the news industry?

Experts believe the real impact will only be visible post the festive season and BARC’s move is expected to hit smaller channels more than the leading ones

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman & Sonam Saini
Updated: Oct 16, 2020 9:36 AM

In an unexpected announcement, the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India on Thursday said it was suspending news television viewership ratings for three months. News ratings have been under the scanner for a week since the Mumbai police registered a case and hinted at possible tampering in ratings.

While BARC’s move aims at reviewing and augmenting the current standards of measuring and reporting the data of niche genres, a few wondered if the timing of the exercise will hit the revenue of the channels further at a time when they are hoping to recover from the Covid crisis.

Anupriya Acharya, CEO, Publicis Groupe South Asia, however, believes any impact if at all will be temporary and negligible. “BARC temporarily hitting the pause button on the ratings of news channels should be viewed as a positive step because it helps both BARC and the industry reflect, take stock and bring in corrective action if and as needed. It should also help in removing any apprehensions that various parties may have. As for any impact on the genre, since it is a temporary suspension of ratings for some weeks, we do not expect much adverse impact. The news genre overall has been doing very well in terms of viewer interest, especially in the Covid-19 environment.”

Echoing similar views, another senior leader said while the impact on bigger channels will be marginal smaller channels might see a significant hit, particularly post the festive season.

“The broadcast industry, which had been hit hard by Covid, was pinning its hopes on the festive season. This was the quarter to recover losses made early this year. However, in the absence of ratings, there is a possibility of advertisers putting pressure on them to lower their rates. Moreover the move should impact the smaller channels more than the bigger ones who actually have landed everyone in the crisis,” said a senior media agency leader.

According to Karan Taurani, VP – Research Analyst (Media), Elara Securities, “Since it has come during the festive time it may have some impact on the advertising money. Nonetheless, number one and two channels as per the BARC ratings will be favoured as compared to the other channels which keep moving up and down in the ratings tally.”   

However, most industry experts maintained that the real impact of the decision will only be visible post the festive season. “Most of the media planning is done on the basis of an average of 8-10 weeks of data. So the real impact will only be seen post festive season,” said a media planner.

“Festive season is not that big for the news genre, as it is more event based. Anyway, the spends were shifting away from news to IPL and other non-fiction properties.  Even if there is a negative impact it will not be primarily because of BARC suspending ratings,” Taurani added.

Another senior analyst maintained that the suspension of ratings won't have a significant impact in terms of advertising revenue but may put the credibility of television as a medium in question. “TV is still the largest medium for advertisers in our country. Even if a segment of TV ratings is under the scanner, it is bad for the overall industry,” he noted.  

Industry experts claimed that a similar proposal was floated by the erstwhile BARC management three years back but could not be implemented due to a lack of consensus. “News genre contributes 10 per cent to the BARC revenue but 90 per cent to its problems,” said an industry observer on a lighter note. 

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