Shailesh Kapoor: Sleepless in the land of 5am TV ratings!

07 Feb,2013

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Wednesday morning will now be replaced by Thursday morning. Actually, make that early morning, or even, very early morning. For the last few years, key members of the TV industry, including its senior leadership, have been waking up at unearthly hours ranging from 4am to 6am every Wednesday. The reason: That’s the time the weekly viewership data (popularly called TRPs) is released. From this week, the cycle changes to Thursday; because of a further inclusion of smaller towns in the respondent mix.

 

I have been on the other side till 2008, and gone through the drill myself. First, you spend a sleepless night wondering when the “data” will be released. Then, you actually get the information that “data has been uploaded” (or “the data has come”, as if it was a person who rang our doorbells).

 

So you wait anxiously for another half hour, while a research executive downloads the data files and updates the software, before proceeding to do the relevant runs. These runs are then converted into long text messages (also BBM or Whatsapp messages) and circulated. An entire industry wakes up to this every week!

 

The question is: Why this early? It’s business after all. And business hours start at 9.30am or 10am across most channels as well as media agencies, the two primary subscribers to the information in question here. Shouldn’t business be conducted in business hours, unless it is earth-shatteringly unavoidable?

 

Till date, I haven’t got a convincing answer. It seems evident that there is a certain element of “addiction” in this routine. The junior execs may not enjoy it, but the more senior ones approach Wednesday mornings with a mix of glee, nervousness and intrigue.

 

In one of my channel jobs, the entire senior team stayed up all night once, because the ratings in the morning were supposed to capture the impact of some key launches on the channel in the previous week. Ironically, the guest of the evening (“data”) was late, and by the time it arrived at 7am, most of us were already home, after a long wait.

 

There is something uniquely Indian about all this. We tend to overwork ourselves, stretching work into non-business hours almost as a matter of pride. But we also spend a sizeable amount of our work time discussing cricket and film stars. We are perpetually working, always handling some crisis or an urgent matter that needs our attention. With the advent of digital devices (starting with laptops, to smartphones, to iPads), the distinction between work hours and non-work hours has blurred beyond recognition.

 

Every constituent of the TV industry, including stakeholders like production houses and knowledge partners like Ormax Media, should reflect upon this: Are we creating a “healthy” industry for the next generation of television executives in India? Would our lives really change if the “data” arrives at 9.30am, only three hours “late”?

 

I hope BARC considers this earnestly in their new design for broadcast research in India. In a country that’s trigger-happy when it comes to censorships, this is one type of censorship that I’ll really welcome: putting a ban on early morning uploads of viewership data!

 

Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media & entertainment research and consulting firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor

 

 

 

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