After a gap of almost a year-and-a-half India’s viewership agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India will start releasing the viewership data for news genre.
BARC India’s decision came after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting asked it to release the ratings for the news genre with immediate effect, and also to release the last three months data for the genre in a monthly format, for fair and equitable representation of true trends.
The brands that were putting their money on the basis of pure assumptions will now have a clear, data-backed research.
Talking to BestMediaInfo.com, Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director, Marketing and Sales at Maruti Suzuki India, said, “For the auto industry, the news genre is quite important because there is high affinity and high engagement. That is why we have been investing in news big time. Our main investments were in GEC, sports, movies, and news. We are still investing a lot of money, but over the last year we have not been getting ratings to go by. We are making decisions based on the old ratings that were available and some internal assessments that we do. Our investment in news genre is 20-25%. The problem for us was that while we were always investing in news, were we investing too much? Secondly, whether the investments were in the right direction and whether the CPRP was justifying our investments. From our perspective, it is a great thing that we will have those ratings available that will help us evaluate our future investments and also do post-campaign evaluations. Both of these things were missing in the past one-and-a-half year.”
As per the revised system, the reporting of News and Niche Genres shall be on a ‘four week rolling average concept’. Earlier the weekly average data used to be released by BARC, the system has now been revamped.
BARC data for news genre was suspended after the TRP scam came to light in October 2020.
Talking about the relevance and authenticity of data and how it will aid media planners and brands, Anita Nayyar, COO – Media and Communications, Patanjali Ayurveda Limited, said, “I think it was important because we are a brand that spends a lot on news channels. It will always be nice to put logic behind where you are spending your money. In our country, the sample sizes are small but it still gives you a trend in terms of who is where in terms of reach. In the news space, there are so many channels and everyone is doing well and is claiming to be the number one, it will be good to understand where the channels stand against each other.”
The ratings are likely to be released only after the Assembly elections in five states are over. Brands have already bought a lot of inventory on news ahead of the election coverage. Even news channels aren’t supporting the idea that ratings should be released before the elections.
Krishnarao Buddha, Senior Category Head - Marketing, Parle Products, said that marketers were earlier forced to measure their spends and spending on the basis of assumptions, and some of them, as a result, chose to stop their spends on the news genre.
“It is definitely a welcome move because in the absence of data brands were relying on just ‘assumptions’. If ratings return there will be numbers and people will be able to measure their spends. We had earlier stopped advertising on the genre. However, now we will be on a wait-and-watch situation, I feel many brands will do that. We all know why the ratings had stopped, the numbers were not correct and even the legitimacy of BARC was under fire. We will have to wait and watch to see if the numbers are right. What new mechanisms will be in place and how the channels react,” Rao said.
In a very strongly worded response, Rajiv Dubey, Senior General Manager and Head of Media, Dabur, said that BARC has been hiding information from advertisers which they deserve. “BARC’s job is to give out the data. We are one of the largest advertisers for the news genre. In the absence of TRPs for the news genre, we were not able to plan our spends systematically. Rather, we were betting safely by spending on traditionally top-three channels and this spend was also unaccountable. At least now we will get GRP and reach data to justify our spends.”
Dubey also said that now that data would be available, more advertisers would want to advertise on the news genre.
“With the release of data, there will be more advertisers on the block. The traditional news advertisers have not moved as news channels have become part of their business strategy now. They go by their own understanding of the market,” he said.
Sharing the news channels perspective, Abhay Ojha - President - Sales and Marketing at News Nation Network, said, “It’s a welcome step by MIB. News Nation Network has always advocated resumption of viewership for the news genre which had been unduly withheld for last one-and-a-half years. January – March 2022 is a critical period, both from the editorial as well as financial perspective due to the upcoming Assembly elections and annual deal planning. Ratings will help us gauge true ROI be it editorial or sales.”
Talking from a media planner’s point of view, Mansi Datta, Chief Client Officer and Head – North and East, Wavemaker India, said, “It’s a Hallelujah feeling. Finally, after a wait for one-and-a-half years ratings will be out for news genre. Heaving a huge sigh of relief, as a significant genre that commands 9-12% of the channel share at an all-India level became a black box. The measurement system went down a rabbit hole, but finally, Alice has traced the white rabbit. News genre commanded a significant part of planning, especially in these troubled Covid-19 times, when everybody knew that the viewership of this genre would have increased. The investment decisions behind this genre were taken on the basis of historic data. This dark period was akin to what ‘Alice in Wonderland’ felt when logic and proportion were warped and chess pieces were all walking backwards. It’s good news for the industry as once again the measurement ratings will bring back decision-making backed by data and insights.”
A senior executive at a large-sized FMCG brand said, “The point is that anyways you look at the ranking of the channel instead of the performance of the channel. You would want a mix of the top-three channels and then you apply the "rate" filter. For example, if channel number one is very expensive you will include the second and the third channel. Ratings can only help you that much. The moment an ad comes people go and flip the channels. So does the absence of rating impact advertisers? Technically No.”
Will it lead to more toxicity in news?
Given that the stakes will now be high for news genre, as channels would compete fiercely to be number one, there’s also the fear of increased polarisation and toxicity in news content.
Talking about how brands will look at the situation, Shrivastava of Maruti said, “Brands have become aware, brand safety and association is important part for us. I would definitely not like to have an association with a news channel that is showing extreme sentiments, because I know brand safety will become an issue and at some point, even the audience will recognise the brand and the content. So, I think even if you have ratings, brand safety will continue to be a priority. Brands will continue to stay conscious; the cautiousness has increased not because of the absence of ratings. The message to the news channels was that toxicity was on the rise and brands were not liking it.”
Nayyar of Patanjali said that viewership data is not the only metrics brands look at while advertising. “I don’t think the decisions will completely fall on data. It is always a combination of science and art. Where you have data, checks also happen in terms of content. The ratings will give you an idea so that you cannot go dramatically wrong with your investments,” she said.
Buddha of Parle Products seconded Nayyar’s comments, and added, “There will be channels that will be more aggressive, however we are also seeing many channels that are not as aggressive today and focus on good news. I think factors like quality of content, rectifying whether the ratings are correlating with the ground reality or not, will matter.”
The executive of the large-sized FMCG brand, who is quoted above, said that the news audience has also become smarter and they don’t want toxicity.
“We all know that there are certain channels that believe in sensationalising news, there are other channels that follow their own set of governance and rules to the extent of unnecessarily trivialising things. It is the channel’s responsibility to ensure that they are not showing content that is not worth their time. Tomorrow, if the consumer gets smarter, as a channel you will be oblivious. People have a habit of blocking numbers they are not happy with, even channels will start getting blocked now. The youth, 20-40 years of age, have completely stopped watching linear television. They are the people who have already decided which channels they won’t watch. The smarter audience will anyways recognise that the content is stupid and skip the channel. If the channel continuously puts out such content, they will be added to the block list.”