Landing Blues for some Broadcasters

07 Jun,2019

 

By A Correspondent

In the past, whenever the issue of Landing Pages and Dual LCNs has been raised, MxMIndia has been of the view that both are legitimate marketing practices. It’s like a supermarket. A new detergent powder make take rack space upfront and across the shop to gain the attention of consumers. It may also take rackspace where other detergent brands are placed. And it may also take space where fabrics and readymades are being sold.

 

You don’t think there’s anything wrong with all of this when it concerns products at a supermarket. You also don’t think twice when the new product takes some 200 outdoor sites to promote itself.

 

The company has the money, it wants to invest in promotional activity (or blow it up, as many may see it) and reap rewards. Fair activity, right?

 

So what’s wrong if the same is done in broadcast? It’s been done openly and clandestinely for a while. But when a broadcaster indulges in it, others rubbish it and even tell the gullible in the trade media and various others that it’s an inorganic (and hence incorrect) way of boosting salience.

 

MxMIndia has not fallen prey to carrying these assertions of various players. Very few broadcasters, we are told, do not deploy this marketing strategy. Simply, put, sab ‘doodh’ mein dhule hue hain. Adulterated doodh, is how one news channel official called it.

 

For a while, telecom and broadcast regulator TRAI has looked down upon landing and Dual LCN as a near-illegitimate activity. Broadcasters who are paying for viewership are indulging in an unfair trade practice, is the refrain, though not in so many words.

 

Obviously, not everyone was happy with this view of TRAI. Prudish and regressive, it was being called.

 

Last week, TDSAT, the law-makers of the telecom and broadcast world, decided – post a filing by a broadcast network – that TRAI’s diktat was incorrect. And also that the landing page signals can carry the watermarking to facilitate measurement by BARC.

 

Now, here’s where the trouble started. BARC, which in most cases takes slow, steady and considered decisions on everything rushed into implementing the TDSAT ruling. Result: starting Week 22 (that’s the ratings released yesterday, June 6), the viewership includes those boosted by landing and whatever else.

 

According to information received, BARC officials were not called in for the TDSAT hearings, which we think is unfortunate as the all-important perspective of a joint industry body could have been heard. BARC is a joint industry body, though owned 60 per cent by broadcasters, and there are some who believe that a section of powerful broadcast ecosystem biggies could have gotten BARC to act so swiftly.

 

Broadcasters who this writer spoke with are up in arms with BARC and are planning to not just challenge the TDSAT ruling, but are also mulling to take BARC to court and question its action.

 

Landing and Dual LCN may be legitimate marketing activity, but the channels aired on landing and Dual LCN should not be watermarked is the belief. Alternatively, BARC must report these separately. The rationale: let a marketing activity be left for marketing and promotions. Viewership of a channel that’s viewed for marketing should not be counted in the viewership.

 

Also, the view is that cable operators/MSOs/DTH players who allow for ‘landing’ must ensure that a viewer/subscriber should be able to switch a channel instantly.

 

In the forefront of this anti-landing page ruling and BARC auto-compliance is a powerful lobby from amongst news broadcasters.

 

And until things change, the ecosystem is going to be fuelled by truckloads of monies. Paisa feko, viewership badhao.

 

There is never a dull moment in the Indian media. Including for those tracking it.

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