Shailesh Kapoor: Rural Ratings: Interesting Days Ahead

21 Aug,2015

 

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

It’s not been long since the official TV ratings of the media industry shifted from TAM to BARC. But BARC has moved ahead at good speed. When it was first announced that BARC will report only 1Lac+ towns data initially, and that urban LC1 (<1Lac) towns and rural will be added later, one was prepared for a long wait.

 

But it’s good to be pleasantly surprised. As per a recent announcement, we may see urban LC1 and rural data as early as September 2015. Well done, BARC!

 

Urban LC1 is not unfamiliar territory for broadcasters. TAM started covering this pop stratum in 2013, and broadcasters, especially the mass players, have made considerable investments in distribution, marketing and research in these markets since then. I’m sure BARC would refrain from the nomenclature “LC1”. I have been told it stands for two different things: Less Than Class 1 (Towns) and 50-100K population towns (L being 50 and C being 100 in Roman numerals). I suspect the former is the more accurate description. But who dreams up names such as “LC1” anyway?

 

The addition of rural markets, in contrast, is an absolute first. There is no taste of rural ratings from the past, and there’s a mystery box feel to the whole thing. In one of their roadshows, BARC indicated that 50% of the universe would be rural, though the sample would be more skewed towards the more heterogeneous urban markets. We can expect ‘Urban+Rural’ and ‘Urban Only’ data cuts to be available soon.

 

The inclusion of rural may not impact several genres, including those based on the English language, infotainment, lifestyle, etc. But it could wreak potential havoc for mass channels, read GECs and Movies. Two other categories that are likely to be impacted are News and Kids, though many advertisers may continue to buy them on Urban Only data.

 

Impact on programming is likely to be significant as well, especially if the 50% weightage indeed becomes reality. Early prime is bound to gain more importance, and we should be prepared to see more mythology, culture reinforcement and patriarchy. It may not seem like a step in the right direction, but if it is closer to an accurate representation of what India watches, we can’t fault the logic.

 

In a parallel universe, the internet and smartphones are enabling content consumption for a sizeable audience base (at least 10% of the Indian population). This content, as we know, looks nothing like what’s on TV. With the addition of rural markets to measurement, the gap will widen even more.

 

At some stage then, an advertiser may have to choose which India it wants to target. Most research worldwide shows that television and Internet are complimentary media, and not competing ones. But the India story can pan out differently. We shall wait and watch.

 

For now, it’s time to welcome Rural India to the world of television ratings. It was long overdue.

 

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