BARC-ing up the right tree!

19 Sep,2014

 

MxMIndia columnists and industry experts Shailesh Kapoor and Sanjeev Kotnala were at the BARC roadshow in Mumbai on Thursday (*See Disclosure). Presenting their views

 

 

BARC-ing up the right tree!

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

This week, BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) conducted roadshows across four cities, sharing important details of the new audience measurement system, to be implemented soon. While we did not get a specific date when the first ratings will be rolled out, there was a lot of new information shared in the roadshow, especially on the universe and the sample design.

 

The details of what was shared should shortly be available in the media, including the BARC website. Hence, I can stay away from writing about them. It is suffice to say that there are sea changes, not incremental ones, over the current measurement system, not just in terms of the panel size and the market coverage (inclusion of rural being the mega addition), but in terms of the sheer approach to how the new system has being envisaged, both in terms of technology and data credibility.

 

But what impressed me even more was the candor and warmth with which the roadshows were conducted. In the Mumbai roadshow that I attended, BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta and Technical Committee head Shashi Sinha made the main presentation. They were later joined by technical committee member Paritosh Joshi, and together, the three answer more than 20 questions from a packed audience.

 

Throughout the presentation and the question-answer session, there was an air of approachability on display. Even for questions for which BARC did not want to share too much information, they could say so with reasons upfront, than give an uptight, no-comments type of response.

 

Importantly, one could sense great chemistry between the team members. With constant pressure on timelines and an all-eyes-are-on-us awareness, one won’t blame if the BARC team were to be tense and on the knife’s edge. Instead, they were unbelievably relaxed (in a very good way, lest I should be misunderstood) and there was smart sprinkling of humor through the session too.

 

Clearly, we are looking at a more inclusive audience measurement company; one that’s open to new ideas and suggestions, from all constituents of the industry. That has been one of the known problems with the incumbent, where the approach has been more on the lines of: This is what our product is, and you have little choice but to take it. I suspect, we are going to see a huge attitudinal shift in the year to come.

 

No specific dates were committed, as I mentioned before. There has been some media talk about the delays. To me, this is largely a non-issue. The roadshow gave a clear sense of progress. If the first ratings don’t roll out in early 2015, they surely will by mid 2015. If we have stayed with the current system for more than 15 years, in various forms, we can surely wait a few more months, can’t we?

 

 

Shailesh Kapoor, founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor.

 

 

Pregnant BARC. Delivery date unknown

 

By Sanjeev Kotnala

Yesterday, the weather in Mumbai was cloudy with some areas reporting scattered rains. Inside the Nehru auditorium BARC’s promising session remained uneventful. The mystery hardly got resolved. What one heard were futuristic promises. With the IRS episode fresh in mind and BARC many months away from data release, this status update seemed more aimed at leaving no square vacant for a later date checkmate.

The update by the BARC team was like an election manifesto; full of good intent.  Hopefully technology will ensure smooth and quality execution. The BARC team wants to start basic reporting before tackling never ending value enhancement demands from industry.

The presenters understandably  were unwilling to share much information. Most good question returned unanswered. Presenters cited BARC Board directive as something that held them back! No harm in being cautious  and not to over-promise and under-deliver.

BARC is  definitely on the right track, promising what industry needs; a robust data with minimal error percentage.  That this is the need is no rocket science. But the most important question – when and how – remained unanswered.

The team at BARC must be applauded getting the best technology for Indian situation. They are sensitive to the industry need and well aware of possible mal-practices. Their roadshow itself was inspiring confidence on BARC’s future delivery.

A lot rides on the data BARC will project and its natural for anxiety to build up as a new technology (watermark) and new NCCS reference points will be used.  So here is the gist.

BARC TV viewership draws on Watermark technology embedding  signals during transmission at the broadcaster end. This is picked by the recorder/ meter/ devise when people watch TV. The signal through integrated SIM card in the device sends back information to Data analytics team. This is cross-matched with the logs maintained at two centres (Mumbai-Bengaluru). Net data is projected basis 20,000 HH (expected to go up to 50,000 in 3 years). Reporting uses IRS, Census data references to finally report  TV Viewership on NCCS Grid, mainly in U and U+R basis.

BARC data will be primed to report ‘What India is watching’ and will cover almost all states. Data devices placement reflect 153 MN TV sets geographical dispersion on state level. It will give report basis ‘telecast + 7day’ accounting for repeat / delayed viewing too. But rural standalone will not be reported.

The BARC team seems to be moving with the demand imposed by current technology.  A lot of promises are being made: Robustness of reported data. Reduced margin of error. Holding back non-stabilized data. Adhering to government guidelines. Transparency and external audit. Reporting on multi screen basis. Attempt to map viewership on digital devices, TV Viewership on same day basis. 25% annual churn in panel. Internally and across business associates information shared on need-to-know basis. Strong filters to prevent infiltration. Etc. etc.

The openness of the BARC team for suggestions sends out positive signals. Add to it BARC’s confidence in creating rules to prevent stakeholders disputing unfavorable results. Just a reminder on this one: the IRS had such conditions as part of their member agreement but we all know the situation. Surely only Time has the answer on this one.

Meanwhile Industry waits for BARC to deliver the final bite.

 

Sanjeev Kotnala is Head Catalyst at P1P2SOLUTIONS and can be reached at netkot@yahoo.com. The views expressed here are his own.

 

 * MxMIndia had partnered BARC to announce the roadshows

 

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