The menace created by the pressure of TRPs on the news channel is arguably harming the stakeholders as well as the viewers.
It is an established fact that a sample size of 55,000 meters extrapolates the TRPs for a vast population such as India.
Considering the size of the news genre which is currently sitting at around 3-4%, they are measured by about 2,000 meters.
This brings a lot of volatility in the weekly ratings despite the data being released on a four-week rolling average basis.
It means that even a small interference, either external (distribution-level) or internal (content-level) affects the pecking order in a big way.
On the other hand, extrapolation on the larger sample base does not impact ratings for the general entertainment or sports channels.
The I&B ministry continues to be of the opinion that under any democratic framework, a robust TRP system is news broadcasters’ fundamental right. It is another matter that the same is not true for the news genre due to a lower sample attributed to them.
After the TRP Committee report submitted by former Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi Vempati in 2021, the ministry is working on the return-path data (RPD) which will increase the sample manifolds.
Then, the viewership data of the news channels will perhaps be resistant to any sort of smaller interferences.
I&B officials expect the RPD to become a reality in about a year and it was believed that the ratings for news channels could be suspended by then for the larger good.
Lack of consensus among news channels over suspension of ratings
One set of news channels who make their fortunes largely based on ratings is bound to oppose any idea of TRPs pause. But for this, the advertisers are squarely to be blamed who penalise the smaller news channels in the absence of ratings.
Amid the speculations around ratings suspension in August, a senior executive from one such national news channel explained the difference between that pre- and post-ratings dark period.
Among the benefits, the executive could only count the consideration in the media plan of advertisers after the ratings resumed who used to pick traditionally top-five channels during the ratings dark period.
In absolute terms, there was no gain in number of advertisers and the ad rates. However, the executive was hopeful of a rate hike if the channel manages better ratings riding on ‘war content’.
The executive told BestMediaInfo.com that during the ratings dark period they were free to pick the topics of the programmes of their choice but now they are not in the position to deviate from matters such as ‘Seema Bhabhi’ or war.
This assertion confirmed that the channels are bound to ride on the war content.
A few from the same set of broadcasters, who have been losing a huge chunk of their revenue in securing higher reach, now concede that the mess can only be cleaned up by suspension of ratings.
Advertisers push for data
Many advertisers BestMediaInfo.com spoke with were adamant on data to justify their effective rate (ER) in post-evaluation.
However, an influential member of the Indian Society of Advertisers who is also a large spender on news channels agreed that the genre can only be protected if they rebuild the trust.
“News channels had played a big role during the Covid and their viewership share zoomed above 20%. It was a great opportunity for them to build up but they lost the way. Now they are 3.5% of the entire television viewership. Earlier, we used to buy news channels for cheaper reach but that reach has also disappeared,” the advertiser said adding that the brief suspension should be done systematically with a proper plan in place for the impending RPD.