Besides disseminating viewership data on all possible cuts through its BMW software for its paid subscribers, BARC India also releases topline data for each genre on its website. It had also partnered with Twitter to send the data via tweets to people opting for it.
When BARC India last month started giving out data on its website with TG as NCCS All 2+ for all genres and markets as all-India for the English, Lifestyle and Infotainment genres, it said this change will allow more direct comparison between genres and aligns with common measurement best practices. Of course, this statement was meant for stakeholders of the ecosystem as the general public would not compare data between genres.
Reliable sources in the industry told BestMediaInfo.com that pressure from a few English news channels is the reason behind this change. One channel that was doing well in a certain market was after BARC to change the data on the website on the basis of that market while another was doing the same thing for another market. BARC, instead of standing firm on a practice that started with its inception, changed the TG for all the genres, suggesting it was doing wrong in the last five years.
Romil Ramgarhia, Chief Operating Officer, BARC India, said, “We have been getting requests to display data for different TG cuts on the website, which is practically impossible.”
Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands India, and Chairman of TechComm at BARC India, put the record straight and said, “This was discussed in TechComm, which has both ISA and AAAI members.”
“Trading TGs vary with advertisers/brands and are in the marketplace domain. BARC India isn’t restricting anyone in the industry to use their TG cuts and they are free to promote on the basis of BARC India’s Fair usage guidelines,” said Ramgarhia.
If the data on the website is irrelevant for the industry, why does BARC continue to publish it? Because publishing the data on website is not optional any more. TRAI had forced the rating agency to resume the publishing of data when it was suspended last year for a brief period until the impact of NTO settled. The regulator was literally after then BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta and the rating agency had to succumb to the pressure.
The recent changes made website data for Hindi news, English, Lifestyle and Infotainment genres irrelevant.
Shekhar Banerjee, Chief Client Officer, West Head, Wavemaker India, said, “India is not monolithic and we cannot use one brush to paint it. In my opinion, more than the age cut what impacts audience behaviour is the town class and physical availability of the channels. This decision is core to a channel’s revenue strategy. For example, it is a choice channel makes to go free-to-air or be a paid channel. Let me also assure the channels that their partners, including future investors, understand this. They will continue to look at audience data with a fine comb and not make their decision on a broad base.”
According to Bhavana Mittal, Media and Digital Head, RP Sanjiv Goenka Group, the largely accepted TG for media buying are: Hindi news: NCCS ABC 20+ Males, English news: 25+ Males NCCS A, Hindi Business news: 25+ NCCS ABC Males, English business news: 30+ NCCS A Males: English entertainment: All adults 25 + NCCS A, Lifestyle: All adults 25 + NCCS A, English movies: All adults 20+ NCCS A and Youth: All individual 14-30 NCCS AB.
“Typically, for any brand, you will look at your TG/market cuts and not do a 2+ All India analysis. Most brands will have their core TG. These numbers are good to see trends over time. But from the planning and buying perspective, it is not that useful. However, if we are meeting a channel, we can now directly check on the BARC website around the channels’ performance and not have to go to agency each time for macro-trends,” said Mittal.
The publicly available data was always believed to form a public perception and industry stakeholders are part of that public. After the perception is built, brands and their agencies buy media by diving deep into the data for media planning and buying.
All the stakeholders, especially broadcasters, understand how perception plays the biggest role in selling. Not only media, this stands true for any product.
While the number one channel struggles to continue or strengthen the perception of being the number one, trailing channels struggle to improve their perception to be in the must-have plan during the media planning process.
Gautam Surath, Senior Vice-President, Starcom, said, “Definitely the perception of being number one helps, especially during negotiations. If the channel was not in the running and there was data to show they were close to the top, it would definitely help them to get into the plan. I am not sure that publishing on website helps. There may be a case though that those clients, which do not buy through agencies, would find this data useful and make some decisions based on it.”
Had perception been not that important and sales were a purely data-driven process, no channel would advertise in B2B. No stories on BestMediaInfo.com would ever make any sense. Neither would agency activation hold any meaning nor the sponsorship of hundreds of B2B events.
While BARC India seems to be giving up to silence a couple of English news channels, it is to be seen how the stakeholders, including the government and regulator, would react to the data now in public domain that makes no sense.