Shailesh Kapoor: Silly Point: Taking Trade Communication To Consumers

11 Sep,2015

By Shailesh Kapoor


It’s been a week of very little action on-air, but there haven’t been too many dull moments behind the scenes in the television business. As the atmosphere around the release of the first rural ratings three weeks from now builds up, so does the battle for top honours in the Hindi GEC category.


Last week, Colors toppled Star Plus by a single GRP (in Hindi-speaking markets), and this week Star Plus took back the top spot, but with an even smaller gap than last week. We may just be seeing the beginning of a very exciting battle for leadership.


Colors’ media response on taking the top spot last week was restrained, and we did not see any press announcements or electronic mailers. It’s also in line with the BARC India advisory on what constitutes responsible use of data in trade communication.


However, the same cannot be said about many other channels. In a silly trend, we are seeing more and more channels promote their “leadership position” on-air, on their own platform itself. Then, there are ads in mainstream print, not just the pink papers, on a certain channel beating others in its genre. The target group, time bands and the period of reporting are selected to suit the output. Even after that, some of these ads promote “leadership” where the gap is less than 5%. And these are genres where total viewership is so low that even a 20% gap won’t constitute real leadership.


This flow of ratings information in the mainstream media is something we could have done without. The usage of the term “TRP” by consumers has gone up significantly over the last two years. When “iski TRP sabse achhi hai” becomes the reason to like a show or a channel, you know there’s a problem.


The problem is not very different from what happens in Bollywood. Box-office figures are central to a lot of communication around films. Consumers speak about the 100-cr club with a lot of false confidence, emanating from truckloads of media information but no perspective on how to read it.


However, there’s a reason why the TV problem is worse. In films, at least the numbers being discussed have a physical meaning. They are in Indian Rupees after all. In TV, no one outside the media industry (and some would say, many within it too) knows how to read the ratings data. It’s just a notion, and hence, it is easy to be misdirected by what one sees and reads.


Once in a while, you see a genuine e-mailer based on ratings data that makes you go: “Whoa, that’s some achievement”. But in the clutter of many claims and counter-claims, they just become one of the many things being said.


But while one can debate the idea of good trade communication vs. poor trade communication, there cannot be much debate against the merits of sparing the end consumer of information on TV ratings.


They, the end consumers, are the ratings themselves. If they start watching something because it rates well, we can be caught in an infinite loop of silliness.


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