Future Shock?! Channels opting out of BARC could lose ad revenue

18 May,2017


By A Correspondent [updated thrice, last update: Saturday, May 20]

The decision of certain English news channels to opt out of BARC measurement could lead to a huge negative fall-out. The channels which do it stand a chance of advertisers renegotiating their deals and even stopping advertising forthwith.

MxMIndia spoke to a cross-section of the community, and they believe the decision is regressive and could set the advertising clock back for news channels irreparably. Earlier in the week, News Broadcasting Association (NBA) complained to the TRAI about Republic TV’s alleged usage of multiple LCNs for distribution. It later appealed to BARC, urging it to not release data for English news channels pending the verdict from TRAI. And when BARC chose to release the data yesterday (Thursday), the association secretary general sent a mail to BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta as per an Economic Times report. The mail noted: “Given your indifference to the serious situation at hand, we are left with no option but to advise some of our aggrieved members to opt out of BARC’s watermarking system with immediate effect until there is appropriate redressal of our grievance.“

A reference was made to how print advertising has gone down in the absence of a currency (IRS) over the last two years. “While the advertising for English nosedived, regional is still holding fort,” a senior industryperson told MxM, hours after the news of the NBA’s surprise mail to BARC was shared with select media.

Shashi Sinha, CEO of IPG Mediabrands and Chairman of the BARC technical committee, was visibly upset with the development. “I don’t know what the hoopla is all about,” he said, adding: “Everyone has done it on different occasions – around their launch or on special days. If at all anyone has not done it, it’s NDTV,” he said.

Another senior industryperson told MxMIndia that if the English news channels were so aggrieved, they should have opted out of BARC measurement before the data was released. “Now the world knows that Republic TV is ahead of all others, and there has been enough noise about it on the channel and in terms of advertising on other media,” she said.

And how will media agencies react to the decision? A senior buyer who requested on anonymity as he is not authorised to speak said that if it’s a one- or two-day gimmick, it’s fine. But if it continues, there’s a problem as there is a lot of accountability in terms of deliverables. So if there is no viewership data, advertising may exit from channels who are not able to supply data.

Industry captains we spoke with also dismiss the decision to look at multiple distribution points (LCNs) as a marketing tactic around launches or induce sampling. “After a few days or weeks, the real picture shows up, and this is what the aggrieved channels ought to have done.”

Meanwhile, from the BARC India point of view, it has a steady policy on the matter, we were told. And this has been displayed on the measurement body’s website.

On previous occasions too – when a channel has relaunched, or done a special campaign around the UP elections or around the Union Budget, BARC has reported the data in its entirety. However many be the distribution points.

BARC has been consistent, a senior industryperson told us. But networks haven’t been so. For instance, while a leading business news channel chose the multiple LCN route around the Union Budget this year, it has now opted out of BARC ratings for its general news channel. A case of double standards, perhaps.

Meanwhile, BARC has issued a statement (Friday, May 20, 5.20pm). Here goes:

“BARC India was set up with the mandate to measure What India Watches, and our measurement system delivers exactly that.

We have a transparent policy on the matter of measuring channels, (which is available on our website http://bit.ly/2dllmIp). This policy has been consistently applied to all channels who subscribe to our measurement.

The fact is that this is a common distribution strategy among various TV channels, particularly News Broadcasters, to place their channels on multiple LCNs and across genres in the past, and they continue to do so even now.

Based on information collected from various monitoring agencies we have seen that multiple English news channels on different occasions have placed themselves on multiple LCNs viz across 64 distribution networks during rebranding/revamp, across 16 networks during budget coverage, across 12 networks during UP elections etc. It has become a usual practice.

We are clear about our position – we measure viewership of channels basis their unique Watermark ID, irrespective of the platform the channel is available on or the number of instances within the platform. For channels having same watermark on more than one LCN, viewership gets aggregated and reported as a single channel and not multiple channels. BARC India neither monitors channel placements across the various DTH platforms/cable head-ends in the country, nor does it have the mandate to do so.

In the past, we have measured multiple LCN instances of channels as per our policy, and reported them as one channel and the same principle has been applied to our data released yesterday. BARC India is not the regulatory body for resolving issues concerning multiplicity of LCNs for a channel.

Ideally these issues should be sorted among broadcasters themselves rather than dragging BARC India into these.

BARC India will continue to measure what India watches.”

MxMIndia also spoke with Nakul Chopra, senior industryperson and President of the Advertising Association Agencies of India, the apex body of advertising agencies in the country, and this is what he said: “It’s one industry. Differences will always be there. It’s better to let things settle down, take a deep break and let sanity prevail. Having said that we are a 100% behind BARC and what  BARC has said in its statement.”  When asked on what the AAAI advice would be to member-agencies on the decision to advertise on channels that have pulled out of BARC measurement, Chopra said: “We are discussing amongst ourselves and with the ISA (the Indian Society of Advertisers) and will give our formal response very soon.” Any timeframe, we asked. “Next week,” he said.

And this is what Sunil Kataria, President, Indian Society of Advertisers, the apex body of advertisers: “Any advertiser wants to put money behind TV media which delivers audience viewership and that metric is available through TV ratings. Hence TV ratings are the sole metric for making advertising spend decisions. BARC has already issued a statement on their policy of measuring what India watches and  hence measuring the viewership as per their stated policy. We are closely monitoring the situation and hope the issue gets resolved. In the meanwhile, we are also in talks with AAAI and would come with our formal statement next week .”



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