Guest Column by Indrani Sen | BARC goes Rural: The Great Media Manthan

09 Sep,2015

By Indrani Sen


The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has churned the ocean of Indian TV audience and has found the nectar of rural market reach for our marketing and advertising industry. Startling trends about urban plus rural combined TV Audience Measurement, based on data collected over 22 to 31 weeks, were revealed at the BARC Road Show in Mumbai on September 7. Adding of Bharat (rural) to India (urban) in the survey has increased the average daily reach of TV by 3 times to a whopping 450 million!


The 30-minute total (urban +rural) gross impressions is 19.5 billion with urban share of 10.6 billion. Rural India has clocked 8.8 billion impressions against 7.7 billion clocked by 1 lakh+ C&S towns in urban!! Moreover, rural rat (number of individuals in 000s of a target audience who viewed an “event” on TV, averaged across minutes) contributes more than 50% in some large regional demographics – AP/TL 53%, RAJ 54%, UP 55% and PHCHP 59%. In the Hindi Speaking Markets (HSM) all states have 50%+ rural rat except MP and JH. In Western India, both MH and GUJ have rat shares tilted towards urban (64% in each state). In Southern India, rural rat ranges from Kerala 45% to TN 46% to KAR 48% to AP/TL 53%. Eastern India is divided into two pockets with three states (Assam &NE, Bihar and Odisha) having 50% + rural rat and the other two states (WB and JH) having around 40% rural rat.


Among the highlights of the findings presented by BARC at the Road Show, rural rat shares of 41% in Hindi Movie genre and 45% in Hindi GECs genre were expected after viewing the shares across the states. The real shocker to the audience at Nehru Centre was 45% share of rural rat in English Entertainment genre! In the post-IPL weeks (22 to 31 weeks) 48% rural rat in Sports genre also came as a surprise. Among the various language news genres, rural rat of Hindi is 37% , followed by Tamil 38%, Telegu 42%, Kanada 45% and Malayalam 48%. Rural rat of Marathi and Bengali news genres have scored respectively 34% and 31%. With poor penetration of newspapers in rural India, it is disappointing to note that the rural rat is not showing higher share in the regional news genre. Kerala stands out as an exception with high rural penetration of Malayalam newspapers as well as Malayalam news channels.


The advertising industry will have to sacrifice reports for ‘Below 1 lakh’ towns in order to get the rural data as BARC will report the all=India TV ratings by four pop strata, ie. Mega cities, 10 to 75 lakh towns, Below 10 lakh urban areas and rural.  Currently, out of 22,000 BARC meters, 16,000 are deployed in urban and 6,000 in rural areas covering population in 1000+ villages. The ratio is opposite of the ratio of number of people/ households in urban and rural India.  Census 2011 over Census 2001 showed a 75% growth in proportion of TV HHs in rural India. BARC has reported 153.5 million TV HHs, of which 77.5 million (50.5%) are in urban and 76.0 million (49.5%) are in rural. As mentioned before, 8.8 billion (45%) of half-hour impressions are coming from the rural sector. It may not be long before the industry urges BARC for reviewing the distribution of meters across urban and rural India and increasing the proportion of meters in rural India.


For some time,we have seen the writing on the wall about the growth in our rural market potential as reported by many independent market surveys and realised by marketers from their own sales reports. BARC quoted some such findings in its presentation to lay the foundation for its discovery. Yes, it is a discovery as these findings will now help our marketing and advertising industry to reach the rural audience effectively through a mass media for the first time, delivering numbers which print can not deliver. Marketers will put on their thinking caps and rewrite their media briefs, plan for better distribution channels in rural India as well as logistics for reaching out faster to the rural consumers. The TV industry will rethink its programming strategies with a large chunk of viewers following the “early to bed and early to rise” policy and spending 41 minutes less time daily on viewing TV than their urban counterparts. As the combined BARC Ratings roll out on a week-to-week basis, TV programmes will also start rolling across timebands/slots trying to balance between the viewing preferences of urban and rural viewers. The ranking of the TV channels by genres may also see some ups and downs as channels struggle to understand the viewing habits of Bharat v/s India. With Rural TV Ratings becoming a reality, media agencies and media channels will engage in qualitative research to understand the TV viewership habits and preferences of our rural audience about which we do not have much clue.


The BARC Road Show also covered the formation of the Meter Company (for lack of a given name) and re-confirmed that 12,000 TAM meters will be duly acquired and overlaid on their existing sample structure with TAM having only the responsibility of running the data files from the meters to BARC. Responsibilities for all other functional areas covering from establishment survey to sampling design to processing, validating and publishing of data stay with BARC, which emerges as the sole TV ratings provider.  Between the sections on Meter Company and highlights of all India findings, BARC talked about the fidelity in its data which has been noticed during last few months. BARC cited the Nepal earthquake, Dr Abdul Kalam’s demise, the Gurudaspur Terror Attack, etc. as examples for breaking news or topical news which caused immediate spikes in viewership.  It was also pointed out how the absence of celebrity anchors (Kapil Sharma and Arnab Goswami) led to a substantial drop in the ratings of the respective channels (Colors and Times Now). It was interesting to note the presence of Technical Committee stalwarts and senior BARC consultants on the stage during the Q&A session which followed the presentation. However, the questions raised by the audience were more general than technical which did not relate to range of relative errors or comparative stability of data, etc.


Finally, BARC deserves an applause for its performance in delivery of TV ratings and brilliant marketing strategy. During this year,it first released the HH level data in April followed by individual level data in June and now in September it is releasing the all-India level data covering urban and rural. 2015 is not a “Year of the Rat” by the Chinese Zodiac Calendar, but the way rat’000 figures released by BARC have been jumping over the industry from week-to-week, Vanita Kohli Khandekar may perhaps like to describe 2015 as “The Year of BARC RATs” in the next edition of her book The Indian Media Business.


Indrani Sen is a media services veteran, having worked with JWT, later Mindshare and then with Emami. In recent years, she is an independed consultant and academic. She is Adjunct Professor in charge of the Media Management programme at the Symbiosis Institute of Media & Communication, Pune. The views expressed here are her own.


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