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#OpinionsThatCount: Are niche channels getting their due in expanded BARC universe?

Niche channels have raised the red flag about their representation in the revamped BARC system, especially after inclusion of rural in the sample size. Best Media Info spoke to a cross section of industry people get a better perspective

Raushni Bhagia | Mumbai | January 9, 2017

OTC_BARCBARC India has always attracted mixed reactions from the industry despite all efforts by the measurement body to make transactions smooth. It is true that each genre has its own set of challenges, but niche channels are for long complaining about the contraction of viewership after sample expansion.

Niche channels have questioned their representation in the expanded BARC universe. In the wake of a lot of senior members of the broadcasting industry pointing at the fluctuations and instability of BARC data after inclusion of rural data, especially the niche players, Best Media Info raised the issue with experts to get the right perspective on whether niche channels are getting their due in the revamped BARC universe.

It must be noted that the earlier TAM system and BARC system are different measurements with two methodologies and the numbers shouldn't be compared. What is notable is that even in TAM, over a period of 10 years, the percentage of English genre viewership compared to total TV viewership dwindled from 2 to 0.9 per cent.

The recent data from BARC India shows that the English Entertainment channels (EEC) and English movie channels have grown with respect to total TV in December 2015 vs December 2016. The English movie genre (EMC) was 0.43 per cent of the total TV viewership (90.478 million Impressions out of the total 21068.373 million Impressions) in December 2015, while the genre grew to 0.45 per cent (106.318 million Impressions out of the total 23889.022 million Impressions) in December 2016. Similarly, for the EEC genre, it was 0.03 per cent of the total TV viewership (7.216 million Impressions out of the total 21068.373 million Impressions) in December 2015, while the genre was 0.03 per cent (7.671 million Impressions out of the total 23889.022 million Impressions) in December 2016. The data is mapped at 4+ NCCS All India market).

MK Anand, MD and CEO, Times Network

MK Anand MK Anand

If the actual advertising value planned for rural was deserving, then we would have accepted that such a change will happen as the market evolves. But that’s not the case. The higher end is contributing to the sales and advertising of all the channels, even GECs for that matter. Even content choices are done on the basis of urban. Hence, it is more important to put in whatever meagre resources in the urban areas to remove the fluctuations in these markets. Even the advertising agencies decide on basis of urban and rural is just an extension of this.

Also, because of this we are putting the channels in the rural areas. If you see, the total monthly viewership of Times Network is about nine crore, of which five crore is from rural, but am I getting even a single rupee from that market? No! Automobile, telecom… all of these advertisers are looking at only the urban markets. Having rural is fine, and we have rural already, but we are expanding it more in those markets. I ask this to the GECs, if rural is so important than why are they not optimising it on rural and the content made in that way. For the advertisers, if rural is so important, why don’t they look at buying spots on Times Now for its rural markets?

I don’t think the ratings are helping the niche channels. I think we are short of boxes in the urban market itself. If, from the total meagre resources that BARC has, if we expand the base better in urban, it will improve the accuracy. The actual power of niche is not coming out because the urban measurement or the higher NCCS groups aren’t good enough to get good members. I am not saying put more boxes, get more ratings.

Take the case of HD. The actual value of HD data is not getting captured because of high amount of fluctuation. Because the number of boxes in HD is so meagre, HD has lost its credibility among buyers. I feel the HD business has been affected because of this. Again, HD consumers are mostly in urban areas.


Ashish Bhasin Ashish Bhasin

Ashish Bhasin, Chairman and CEO South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network, Chairman Posterscope and MKTG Asia Pacific, ?Aegis Group plc, DAN

By definition, a niche channel in the mass audience measurement system will always be affected but the audience data is not the only or the best way to look at niche channels. It is one indicator but you have to either do boosters or separate studies to understand its impact. Audience measurement is only one indicator in your decision-making whether it should be in your consideration set or not because the wider you go into the country, the smaller is the niche, and statistically it is going to work out that way.

It's not a BARC specific issue; it is an issue of the niche channels in a large country and a mass measurement system irrespective of BARC or anyone. By definition, niche will always be unstable in any measurement system. It gives you an important indicator and direction of where it is going. Then you have to use other qualitative inputs to further augment it.

Even with increasing sample it won’t help. The larger the universe, the worse it would become. To work especially for the niche, one has to use separate booster sample, which won’t be viable. In a mass measurement system, anywhere in the world, a niche channel will always be an unstable cell and will always be disadvantaged in the accuracy of measurement – so it will be favourably up or unfavourably down. Ultimately, it is niche in a large statistical sample.

Partho Dasgupta Partho Dasgupta

Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India

The year has seen a rise in total TV viewership and niche channels too have benefited with rural India’s contribution to viewership being substantial. Even in urban markets, EEC’s viewership grew from 4.3 million Impressions to 5.6 million Impressions (Dec 2015 vs Dec 2016). In the same period, English movies grew from 5.7 million Impressions to 7.1 million Impressions. The robust sample results in fidelity, which has been witnessed time and again across major key events across all genres, be it English News, Movies, EEC, Infotainment channels among others.


Sangeetha Aiyer Sangeetha Aiyer

Sangeetha Aiyer, VP and Head Marketing, A+E Networks, TV18 JV

They are not getting their due. If you look at the niche genre, a lot of fluctuations are happening in the weekly viewership numbers, even in the infotainment genre. Despite having so many language fields, the reach is much higher considering the dubbing. The representation doesn't seem to be consistent in the viewership panel. Digitisation is important since it will make the content democratic, but what is more important is the panel size and how the niche channels are represented in this panel. How you construct the panel and the reflection of news channels is important.


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