Rural ratings delayed, but are broadcasters rural-ready?

09 Oct,2015


Rural Ratings Delayed, But Are Broadcasters Rural-Ready?By Shailesh Kapoor


The delay in the release of the rural ratings has been a topic of chatter in the broadcasting corridors over the last fortnight. Since a definitive date was announced, the delay has led to speculations, even rumors, including some that are imaginative and absurd in equal measure.


Over the last year, since it became evident that rural ratings will be a part of their lives sooner than later, broadcasters have spent considerable resources in becoming “rural-ready”. The main area of focus has understandably been distribution. The other emphasis has been on consumer research. Having studied LC1 consumers extensively over the last few years, rural research is not entirely alien territory for broadcasters.


But is that all that’s there to being rural-ready? Distribution is an enabler and consumer research is an input into programming and marketing. Hence, unless the rural-readiness reflects in content and brand strategies, it is not in place in real terms.


That raises the pertinent question: Has anything changed on-air? Besides some of the GECs extending their primetime to ensure an early start (5pm/ 6pm), no other visible change reflects rural-readiness on-air. If anything, some changes have been a bit “anti-rural” in nature. A sizeable proportion of new launches over the last year are urban-skewed in their theme and treatment. It is evident they will lack rural traction.


Stereotyping problems have continued, such as assumption that non-fiction viewers would rather read English than Hindi. Presentation language, as a result, continue to be inconsistent on-air, not just for GECs but even for movie channels. Liberal usage of English mars comprehension of several shows, including some fiction ones, even in the urban centers, and this has not changed either.


The approach seems to be that of ‘be ready and then wait-and-watch’. The first ratings, whenever they are out, will mean a shift of gears. With channel and programme level data available to act upon, and the weekly clock ticking by, it would be time to act on high priority. All the rural research reports, from studies conducted in late 2014 and early 2015, will then come in handy.


The genres that are likely to be least impacted from a content perspective are news and kids. Though both of them may lose overall TV viewing share in rural, like most other non-GEC genres, their rural content profile is likely to be similar to the bigger urban centers. A few other genres, especially infotainment and music, will have to take decisionson whether they want to invest resources in the rural markets at all.


All this shall unfold when the rural ratings are released. Till then, the question of why they did not release on schedule, and what the new date is, will continue to keep us busy.


So what’s delaying BARC’s rural ratings?By A Correspondent


The much-awaited release of rural ratings data from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), the joint industry body mandated by broadcasters, advertisers and advertising agencies to measure television audiences looks likely to be delayed.


According to sources, broadcasters body Indian Broadcasting Foundation of which Star India CEO Uday Shankar is President, has written to the BARC board asking for the rural data to be delayed.  The reason:  there is need to let the current the data stabilise given some complaints of volatility. BARC started releasing its data from end-April 2015.


BARC was scheduled to release the rural data by end-September and conducted road shows across major centres (Disclosure: MxMIndia had partnered the promotion of these roadshows).


However, according to industry grapevine, there is more to the delay than the reason to stabilise. Sources have told MxMIndia that certain members of the ecosystem are dismayed with the delay and have questioned whether a leading channel whose ratings have been put to test by competition is behind the effort to delay the rural release.


According to information we have received, Doordarshan officials are unhappy with the delay, and it is felt that if BARC pushes the release of rural data indefinitely, the I&B ministry may also step in.


The BARC Board is scheduled to meet next week and will possibly deliberate on the issue.



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