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Don’t jump on BARC data, let it mature, advises Network18’s AP Parigi

Advocating prudence to stakeholders in consuming the first tranche of ratings, the Group CEO of Network18 says that a lot more challenges have to be addressed before a reliable and robust system is arrived at

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Delhi | May 1, 2015

Amba Preetham Parigi Amba Preetham Parigi

Network18 has welcomed the first set of data released by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India on April 30, 2015. In a release issued, the group has said that a stable and reliable BARC measurement system will help marketers make more informed allocations on their investments in TV channels, which together account for almost 40 per cent of the total advertising expenditure in India.

The release quoted AP Parigi, Group CEO, Network18, as stating, “The first week’s data (Week 16; April 18-April 24) shows CNBC-TV18 as the No. 1 English business channel, CNBC Awaaz as the No. 1 Hindi business channel and CNN-IBN as the No. 2 English news channel and IBN7 as the No. 6 Hindi news channel. Colors is No. 1 Hindi general entertainment channel in the prime time slot (7 pm to 11.30 pm).”

At the same time, he cautioned, “We should be patient and not jump to conclusions; a deeper understanding of how viewership numbers should be interpreted suggests that while one celebrates BARC’s rollout, it would be prudent to wait till the system evolves.”

In a country as large as India, measurement has always been a daunting task. According to the release, the Indian Readership Survey, with a sample size of 235,000, is still struggling to deal with challenges that surface from time to time. Some experts believe that even sample sizes running into many more lakhs may still be insufficient for reliable measurement. The group has stressed on the need to support BARC with suggestions and feedback.

The release added that the data was for just one week and it was better to wait for a data trend or data curve to emerge. This is even more critical for niche genres such as news as the volatility is likely to be greater vis-à-vis mass genres such as Hindi general entertainment. The familiarisation process of the new systems at the Household level is very much in its infancy, which can lead to outlier behaviour that has plagued measurement systems in the past as well. BARC is addressing such issues; if they go unnoticed, they could well impair the robustness of the measurement system.

Further, all the elements that go into the measurement of TV audiences by BARC need to stabilise and be understood by all the stakeholders. It needs to be stressed that the data released is only at the Household level. Data at individual levels will be available only after a few months. As of today, the sample is only 10,760 households and is scheduled to ramp up to 20,000 households in due course. Currently, the data is available only for 1 lakh+ towns; data for the rest of urban and rural India will be available over the next six months. Since rural viewership habits have never been measured by any entity in the past, the inclusion of this data could throw up new conclusions in many genres. The NCCS system will also need to evolve with fast changing consumer durable ownership; BARC will have to keep pace with it.

Parigi further said, “The journey has just begun. Lot more challenges have to be addressed before we arrive at a reliable and robust system. The growth of television as a medium will be heavily influenced by such data. It is with this view all constituents of BARC should engage in a continuous dialogue, provide constructive criticism and support the evolution of a world class measurement system.”

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