Two years of BARC India

10 May,2017


On April 29, Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC India, in short) completed two years of officially publishing data to the industry. For Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India and his team, it’s been a busy two years having made rapid strides – going rural, buying out rival TAM and merging its metres thereby leapfrogging its metre base and eliminating competition and working towards an integrated television-cum-digital measurement, a significant change in the Universe, and more.

Excerpts from an interview with Partho Dasgupta:


Two years is a big milestone. If you were to sum up the second year (of data going live, that is), what would it be?

It has been a fantastic year with a lot of learnings. In October 2016, we completed one year of our All India data release, which has allowed us to extract some very interesting viewership trends.

We knew that TV viewing in India responds to various stimuli, internal and external. We now see linkage with seasonality, and this insight helps us answer quite a few queries with regard to actual viewership behaviour in the country.

We are now two years’ old and the learning curve has helped us better understand pain points of the industry. We are delighted about our journey so far and have our plans set for the next two years as well 🙂

In a country which rejoices and celebrates with every milestone, why the quiet second anniversary?

We are a close-knit company that believes in celebrating each milestone we achieve with our employees. It’s important to be low-key in our already hyper active media world.

This is a question that’s possibly best asked to your subscribers, but would you say data has stabilised?

I have always said this and I am sure now most of our subscribers will agree with my thought. Our data is representative of ground reality. We were always robust and stable, and we still are. Also since the landscape is dynamic and we have to recalibrate ourselves to make the data more accurate, there may be some disruptions in the short term. Take, for instance, our new Universe Estimate. Yes, a lot has changed from the time we introduced the new UE, but how long will we trade on data based on a survey done in 2013? The industry understands this and has welcomed the move.

We still find some long tail, niche channels complaining that the data isn’t stable. Comments.

In almost all countries across the world, niche channels are not reported and analysed the way we do in India. We have time and again proposed that niche channels should look at data which is based over longer period and large TG base. This is solely because, niche channels due to their small viewership base will have relative error much higher than any mass channel.

Post our Universe Update, genres including niche, have seen huge growth in viewership. This is also in sync with the ground reality of more homes moving up the socio-economic ladder, digitisation leading to greater sampling of the larger number of channels available to the viewer, growth coming from Tier 2 and 3 towns etc. Look at the number of kids going to English medium schools. Close to 60% of households in the top Socio-Economic group prefer English as a medium of education for their children. Not just this, over the last five years, the number of schools in India imparting education in English has doubled. India is changing and this is reflected in our data as well.

As we expand our panel homes size, and move towards incorporating Return Path Data (RPD) from digital distribution platforms, the data will get progressively more robust.

Now that you’ve seen data trends closely over two years, would you say that there are some quirks in the data that people aren’t reading well enough? For instance seasonality, weather conditions etc?

The industry had been used to reading data in a certain way and with us this has changed. Larger sample size, more number of towns, better representation of TV homes, use of audio watermarking technology etc ensures that we capture the slightest of change in viewership habit. This leads to a bit of flux, but that is the reality. Consider this: January-February are the months when school kids are busy preparing for exams, kids genre viewership drops in this period. Come March-April, and viewership peaks. This is because, it is this time that vacation season kicks in.

Another important trend that we have noticed is that viewership is inversely proportional to weather changes. To understand this point, we looked at the UP market, where as weather peaked, viewership in primetime (7-11pm) dipped. What this meant was as mercury rose in the day, people in the state moved their chores to cooler evenings, thus staying out of home leading to drop in viewership. It can also be attributed to increased powercuts in summer. Our data picks up these Seasonal Swings in TV viewership.

Other instances are Election and Budget seasons. News genre grows in this period, and that also impacts viewership of other genres. There are many such examples that I could give to show how both content and external factors like heat waves, vacation, powercuts etc. play an important role in viewership coupled with the telecom connectivity issues we have in India.

Are you happy with the way data is being used by subscribers? We’ve seen frequent complaints to ASCI by a few news channels…

When we started operations, we realised that the data was being sliced and diced to claim leadership. We come up with guidelines that puts reasonable limits on the way the data can be publicly reported. While many follow the guidelines, those who don’t can be reported to ASCI.

You have undertaken a significant redefining of the data. How has the transition been?

Contrary to what many had expected, the transition has been very smooth. This can be attributed to the fact that the industry was sensitised about the changing landscape and the impact it has on viewership much before we implemented the Universe change. The Industry has been very supportive.

A word on rural which has now been around for over a year. Other than broadcasters, would you say it has fuelled the rural economy and made brand managers change the way they look at rural India?

Including rural viewership has been a great eyeopener. Rural so far was being ignored as many thought it wasn’t yielding any viewership. But look at what it has done to the TV landscape. The increase in number of Free To Air (FTA) channels, growth of Freedish, increase in number of advertisements on FTA channels among other things.

Talking of statistics, we have seen a 13% rise in the number of advertisers on rural focused channels. The biggest spike was seen in Hindi Speaking Markets (HSM) channels. From a 31% share of total advertising, the share of FTA rose to 39%.

With around 38% of rural population forming the affluent base (NCCS A & B) and 47% of total rural population in the age group of 15-40 years, it is they who form the belly of rural viewership. This shows that going forward, any premium or high end product targeting need not necessarily be limited to urban anymore.

The announcement on Ekam has been well-received. But the big integrated deck is a long way off. Given the way the digital world is changing, how easy will it be for you to adapt to a new environment/tech platform, if any?

We are excited about launching digital measurement in the country. We will be using not one but different methodologies to measure digital consumption on different platforms with the help of Industry constituents. Like in TV, even in digital, the technology we use will be futureproof.

Is the integration of TAM in the BARC complete?

We have successfully formed the meter company, a joint venture of BARC India and TAM. The company is fully functional now and is working on integrating the TAM meters in BARC India sample homes.

One last question: if you were given an option to relive Year 2, what would you change given the developments that happened?

We have set up the BARC Disciplinary Committee, are working towards increasing the sample homes by tying up with DTH and digital cable players using Return Path Data and revising our contracts with broadcasters which clearly defines the clauses of code of conduct. All this will be a major step in our fight towards curbing malpractices like panel infiltration. These are reactive steps to what happened last year. We should have started work on all of this in the second year of operations.


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One response to “Two years of BARC India”

  1. Natarajan V says:

    Yo Partho. Great going.