Shailesh Kapoor: With Rural Ratings, India is Split Wide Open

26 Oct,2015


By Shailesh Kapoor


BARC India released the first rural ratings data Friday morning. There have been some delays in the rural rollout, and they have been understandably under some pressure here. But now, that’s all a thing of the past. We are in the rural data regime. October 23, 2015 could go down in our television history as the before-after date. Congratulations to those who made it happen.


The data itself has enough meat to keep conversations going. That FTA (free-to-air) channels will benefit from rural data was evident, but the extremity of this “benefit” was perhaps underestimated by everyone. Sample this:

1. In Rural HSM, four private FTA channels (Zee Anmol, Star Utsav, Rishtey and Sony Pal) have more combined viewership than the seven Hindi GECs that run original content.


2. These FTA channels get 71% of their viewership from rural India, while the “mainline” Hindi GECs get only 37% of their viewership from rural India.


3. As a result of this turnaround, Sun TV (despite just 1 GRP in HSM) is the No 1 channel at an All India level, and by a clear margin too.


5. Zee Anmol, the No. 38 channel in the big metros, is the No. 1 channel in rural HSM.


The dichotomy is apparent. India has been split wide open, into rural and urban India. This will change many things in and around the television business. For starters, it will change the idea of how data is viewed and analysed. Each genre has an operating TG in which the leading players measure their performance. It’s been CS 4+ HSM (Hindi-speaking markets) for Hindi GECs and Hindi Movie Channels for ages, and CS 4+ state equivalent for mass regional channels (e.g. CS 4+ TN for Tamil channels).


HSM is no longer HSM, though. It is a combination of HSM Urban and HSM Rural. Many advertisers are understandably not interested in the rural ratings, addressing a target audience that’s still predominantly urban. E-commerce is one such category. However, categories like FMCG and telecom would be interested in rural India too. But even for them, the messaging in rural India and urban India (especially the bigger towns) would tend to differ significantly. Imagine Vodafone running the same commercial to entice a Mumbai customer and a rural customer in UP.


Hence, a logical outcome could be that GECs would get naturally classified as Urban GECs and Rural GECs. The Rural GECs will attract brands targeting rural India, and will be measured in their “category”, while the Urban GECs will continue to operate much like they used to, in the pre-rural era.


One could argue that rural penetration of pay channels will increase with time, and the gap between the two types of GECs may look much smaller a year from now. But an Urban GEC playing in the Urban+Rural space would bring its own share of confusion, like that commercial that would target a Mumbai customer or a UP rural customer, but play out to both. Having said that, technology solutions to localized ad targeting are available and likely to become a lot more relevant now than ever before.


The dust will settle down over the next few weeks and a broad consensus on working definitions of categories and their target audiences is likely to emerge with time. For once, niche channels (not targeting rural India) would have more clarity on how to use the ratings data than their mass counterparts.


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