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Has BARC India minimised the impact of landing pages on viewership?

Is the impact of landing pages still visible in viewership data for news channels or has BARC been able to weed out the outliers?

The return of ratings for news channels has raised a pertinent question - has BARC India been able to reduce the impact of landing pages on viewership?

Treating the viewership generated through landing page brought by some channels has been a bone of contention before the release of data. Channels who do not resort to landing pages to artificially boost their ratings have been pushing BARC for a fool-proof technological solution to mitigate the impact of landing page on viewership.

On the other hand, the channels who spend a lot on landing pages in the name of marketing are either silent or opposing any such move by BARC.

According to the latest data sourced from Chrome DM, which tracks landing pages across the country, and a couple of other sources, News18 India, TV9 Bharatvarsh, Republic TV, Republic Bharat, Times Now, Times Now Navbharat, CNN News-18, ABP News and Zee News have regularly bought landing pages. is withholding the number of headends individually bought by these channels. However, the numbers range from 1 to 100.

In order to find out the answer to the question whether BARC India has been able to mitigate the impact of landing pages on viewership, spoke to industry experts with expertise in sample-based research mechanism.

One of the top analysts said that the impact of landing page will be there because BARC is applying statistics and it cannot completely weed out the outliers. “At the same time, it has to be rational so that genuine viewership is not affected,” the analyst said.

A month before the TRP scam came to light, BARC had introduced a method in September 2020 that directly uses inferential statistics to mitigate the impact of landing page on viewership. Earlier, the rating body was using the method which was based on symptomatic statistics.

“Moving from symptomatic to inferential statistics has made sure that the impact on large scale is mitigated. However, the impact of landing page at some level will be there,” an industry leader said.

“This also means that the channels who are spending huge amount for long-term presence on landing pages are directly burning cash with no return in terms of ratings. The new system based on inferential statistics is capable to catch rampant usage of landing page and in the process, the channels might lose out genuine viewership also. In all fairness, I can only wish if BARC had a way to completely weed out the landing page impact on viewership. But if any channel is doing it, they must use it strategically as a marketing tool as allowed by TDSAT,” the industry leader added.

The analyst quoted above questioned how long any channel could survive on landing page. “It is not a sustainable business model. Eventually, it is content that will create affinity for a news brand and make viewers hooked to the channel. That should be the long-term strategy for any channel.”

A large-scale advertiser, who spends over Rs 100 crore a year on news channels, said that news channels should stay away from landing page.

“In my opinion if the content is good, viewers will come on their own. News channels are presently wasting their effort on landing page. One channel that is the top user of landing page is not even in top five in the BARC data. What does this say? Instead of improving the calibre and setting a bar, the channels are resorting to such stupid things,” the advertiser said.

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