Shailesh Kapoor: Getting Used to BARC

12 Jun,2015

By Shailesh Kapoor


The new (BARC) ratings are settling in and individual-level data is now available as well. As the market adapts to a new measurement system, there is a hint of confusion in the air. And there’s one dominant reason for it – the constant comparison between the old (TAM) and the new measurement systems.


No two designs of a large sample study give similar results, especially when there are several conceptual changes in their design, like that of the NCCS being adopted instead of the SEC system. At best, one can compare ranks. For example, it is reasonable to expect that the No 1 channel in a category would not be different in the two systems, especially if there was a wide gap between the Top 2 in the old system.


BARC has been built on the premise that it is more robust, secure and future-ready compared to the old system. It was created because there were widespread concerns about the old system. A comparison exercise, then, becomes a contradiction in itself. Hopefully, the dust will settle soon, and the focus will shift on the new data than its comparisons with the old. And there will be enough and more to unravel.


The Hindi GEC programme ratings of the latest week (as well as recent weeks) tell their own story. The Top 5 programmes last week were Saathiya, Ashoka, Sasural Simar Ka, Balika Vadhu and Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai. Except Ashoka, which launched earlier this year, the other four are old horses, with an average lifespan of five-and-a-half years!


There’s a clear consumer statement in this rather simple, back-of-the-envelope data point. More than 150 new fiction shows have launched over the last five years. Yet, the audiences have stayed with their staple primetime diet over half a decade! That’s less a comment on the high quality of the staple and more a comment on how the new attempts have not managed to take the offering to the proverbial next level.


Even Diya Aur Baati Hum, which would have made it to the list in another week, is a 2011 show. What exactly happened to Hindi GEC fiction content in 2012-14? Equally importantly, because large proportion of viewership of the top shows isdriven by habit and nostalgia, wouldn’t there be viewership attrition (if and) when these shows are off-air? We would need many more Ashokas to keep the fiction flag flying high.


Meanwhile, even as new fiction struggles, non-fiction continues to make some impact. It may not feature in the Top 5 this week, but the latest season of India’s Got Talent is by far its best. There’s little to fault in this reality show that combines outstanding talent with great production, and a jury that should get full marks for their chemistry alone.


I was also impressed by the first two episodes of The Voice India. The format is strikingly different from other singing shows, and the casting of the four coaches makes it a near-coup. I’m curious to see how the show shapes up, especially once the team selection process, the current differentiator, is over.


Yes, there’s enough to talk about on the content front, once we shift focus from TAM vs. BARC.


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