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In-depth: The implications of BARC’s new universe for the television industry

Right from changes in age-cuts, new establishment survey, shuffling of the NCCS grouping and restrictions on comparing data, the new universe has a lot of interesting aspects. It will be implemented starting Week 8 of BARC data

Raushni Bhagia | Mumbai | February 27, 2017

 

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The Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) has decided to update the universe for the first time after its launch in March 2015. The newly updated universe will be applicable in the data churned out from Week 8 mapping the viewership from February 18-24, 2017. BARC currently has 20,000 bar-o-meters which will go up to 30,000 by the end of 2017.

BestMediaInfo.com, after talking to media veterans and BARC India, has come up with some of the important highlights of the new universe and their possible implications on the overall viewership and performance of the measurement. As BARC India says, the change is in line with TV viewership measurement global best practices, and reporting TV viewing habits at 2+ instead of the existing 4+ is part of that.

Change in age-cuts

The new universe has seven age-cuts, against eight divisions in the previous universe estimate. The starting age bracket has also been changed from 4-8 years to 2-14 years of age. This is expected to affect the viewership viewership of the genres which consider the target group in the said age group – Kids, Hindi GECs, Hindi movies, Infotainment, Lifestyle, Music, Sports, English GECs, English movies and all Regional genres.

Partho Dasgupta Partho Dasgupta

Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India, said, “The change is in line with TV viewership measurement global best practices. This is followed in some of the developed markets like the US, Japan, Canada and others, and in line with BARC India’s endeavour to bring the TV viewership measurement system in India on a par with global benchmarks. Reporting TV viewing habits at 2+ instead of the existing 4+ is part of that. As far as impact on viewership is concerned, we will be able to say after the new Universe Estimate (UE) is implemented.”

However, the implications will be maximum (though positive) on the Kids genre, while other genres are expected to have negligible effects. With increase in the base of the Kids genre, the reach and viewership to some extent are expected to increase. The players in the genre always wanted to tap that TG since there are a lot of launches for the pre-school age group (2-6).

A senior media planner, on condition of anonymity, said, “Kids genre will be the beneficiary of this change. I’m not sure if they have a different methodology of research for measuring the viewership of two-year-olds or four-year-olds, because, no matter what, I think parents are switching the channels for their kids. Also, the advertiser doesn’t look at data for these genres. If you want to increase the robustness of the data and you are spending money on it, you should increase the sample in the existing universe. I don’t know if expanding the age group is a good idea. But this age increment comes at no extra cost.”

New Establishment Survey

Establishment Survey is the basis of selecting the sample (panel homes) and weightages across the market. While the earlier sample of BARC India (the one announced in March 2015) was selected basis the survey used by Indian Readership Survey (IRS), the new universe has been selected on the basis of the new establishment survey called Broadcast India 2016 (BI 2016) done by BARC India.

Dasgupta explained, “The last survey conducted by IRS was in 2013. What we need to remember is that a lot has changed since then in India and the new UE addresses these changes. The biggest change is in the growth of TV owning households, which has gone up from 154 million to 183 million, a 19 per cent growth. Of this, urban India contributes 84 million TV households and rural 99 million. TV penetration too has gone up from 54 per cent to 64 per cent and the total number of individuals has increased from 675 million to 780 million. Family fragmentation is clearly visible, with percentage of joint families shrinking from 26 per cent to 22 per cent of the total universe coupled with significant growth in the middle class.”

Sundeep Nagpal Sundeep Nagpal

Sundeep Nagpal, Founder Director, Stratagem Media, observed, “This will also change the weightages given to the various demographic segments. “The change in the establishment study is the bigger change as it will have implications on various genres. This might not have immediate visible effects on the overall channel or programme level viewership, but there will be changes in the breakups in certain TG and markets. Considering these breakups, the change can certainly be spotted. It will have a long-standing impact but this, according to me, is the step in the right direction as long as this establishment study remains consistent.”

Establishment Survey is a continuous process because the universe never remains the same – number of TV households and channels are always increasing and this must be reflected in the changing universe. There will be a lot of changes in the way data is reported. India changes every few years and one has to keep up with the reality of that place. Changes are normal and you have to keep on reflecting reality.

“We started working on the survey in November 2015 and completed it in February 2016. In this period, we covered 300,000 homes in over 590 districts. The urban coverage for the survey was 66 per cent. Through this, we have information regarding TV ownership, connection type, language preferences and other media consumption of Indians,” added Dasgupta.

Comparisons are out

With these changes, comparisons will not be allowed. It is technically not right to compare these ratings to the previous one since the sample, universe and weightages have drastically changed. This problem is something that even IRS had to contend with when they moved from Hansa to Nielsen.

Some Key Definitions

Establishment Survey: It is a research study used to gather specific details of households and individuals to be used together with Census data in the preparation of universe estimates for TV audience characteristics – geographic, demographic, socio-economic status and others. The Establishment Survey also serves as a randomly selected pool of TV owning households for use in the on-going selection and recruitment of panel households.

Weightage:  It is the factor by which the data is extrapolated. So, hypothetically, if XYZ market had 100 homes of NCCS A and 10 panel homes are present, then the weightage is 1/10. Now, if after two years, there are 120 homes of NCCS A and 10 panel homes, the weightage becomes 1/12. The viewership generated by these 10 panel homes is extrapolated by this factor. They have to be upgraded on a regular basis, and whenever they make a change like that in the weightages, they have to announced.

New Consumer Classification System (NCCS) determines the strata of the household. With respect to the NCCS classification of a household it is based on two main variables – education of the household’s chief wage earner, defined as the person who contributes the most to payment of household expenses, and household ownership of 11 specific durable goods. There are 12 grades in the NCCS – A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, C1, C2, D1, D2, E1, E2, and E3, where A1 represents the highest class and E3 being the lowest.

Dasgupta reiterated, “The numbers from Week 8 onwards will be calculated on a new universe. All the data of the past will be available however being two different bases, comparisons are avoidable.”

But if it is considered that the universe has to be updated every two years, won’t we be left with no empirical study on any of the major properties and channels? Because, if that is the case, then it will become very difficult to gauge the performance of the long-standing heavy properties like IPL, Bigg Boss and Kaun Banega Crorepati, amongst others. The advertisers actually need to know what the RoI was of a property five years before and now.

“I believe that the comparisons can happen for business understanding provided an intelligent data analyst can look at how weightages have changed with this. He/ she can take a good judgement on this but it is also true that this is not comprehensible. The universe expansion might happen every year because this depends on the rate at which the change in the base is happening,” explained Nagpal.

Dasgupta also accepts that the updation of universe will have to be quicker than a couple of years. “The universe change should ideally be done at least once in a year if not sooner. Globally, since TV penetration is almost stable, there are no significant shifts in the annual updates. Given the significant changes which are happening in India, we shall see a very dynamic environment for the next 12-18 months at least.”

Nagpal also believes that it will take about 3-4 months to draw conclusions on which breakup of TG and geographical markets are witnessing the highest levels of fluctuations and changes.

TAM and BARC: What’s similar?

Earlier, TAM was always criticised for not expanding the universe. When they upgraded the universe, they were blamed for fluctuations in numbers (which is obvious initially after a new universe is introduced). Later, there were court cases, legal battles and a boycott spree that TAM landed in.

“TAM also used to update universe annually and hence this is not a new practice. We are a joint industry company and our decisions are guided by the interests and needs of our stakeholders. That, and transparency in operations is our biggest advantage and strength. Our UE update is part of that collaborative, need-based process. The changing TV viewing habits of viewers, as well as other changes in landscape has been captured by our BI survey, and hence our updates UE will only make our viewership data more representative. This would mean better targeting both for broadcasters and advertisers. The survey will give our subscribers a deeper insight into the TV viewer,” said Dasgupta.

A senior media expert believes that TAM was playing safe and never wanted to get into any controversies and hence they always tried not to rock the boat. But BARC wants to move in the right direction no matter how much time it takes to stabilise. “Technically speaking this is the right way to do the things and there’s no way but to keep evolving I also feel that the data will stabilise after a certain amount of time (say 4-5 years).”

It is not going to be easy to understand the changes. After the eighth week of this year, the changes need to be studied closely and minutely to see whether they can be justified. “Number crunching is a very messy thing and not everyone in the Indian media industry has the hang of it. In such a scenario, if you go on complicating things beyond a point, I wonder how long people would be patient to handle the changes,” said the anonymous planner.

Info@BestMediaInfo.com

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