TV Audience Measurement: Time to Reboot!

10 Nov,2020


By Shripad Kulkarni


Before I get to the theme of this piece, just as a matter of clarification on my views on the crisis: BARC by and large has done justice from all counts. A shot at gaming the system (if indeed there is one) by a media cannot be held against BARC. News and niche genres are indeed not adequately covered by BARC but that’s also a matter of priority, given the budget available.


I believe as an industry we are now in a good ‘TV ratings scam-led’ crisis. Why let a good crisis go waste? Why not set a path to create a TV measurement system of the future ? As they say: Never waste a good crisis! Else, it is headed for Nullity* as I have already expanded in an earlier article. (link).


This is a new look at the crisis as an opportunity. Of how we can move on to a path of the future. With this vision, let’s not go for incremental changes but go for an overhaul. We can’t be in the legacy media mindset any more. We must act with a speed befitting the new media landscape. With a learning mindset of the new digital led media ecosysyem. In my view, there are four things we need to do:


First and foremost, we must address the inadequate representation of the top-end audiences.

Today NCCS A accounts for about 38% of Mega Metros (5 mn plus pop). Topmost Socio economic classes A1 and A2 are each around 10% of audience in Mega Metros as per IRS. This leads to an underestimate and/ or inadequate audience profiling for the news genre, English and niche long tail genres. Thus channels, programmes aimed at the Top 20% of mega metro audience in terms of buying power can’t be ranked on their viewership. Naturally, luxury or premium lifestyle products have a limited or constrained use of this data. This needs to be addressed, at the very least for Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru which will give a good enough idea of All-India viewership trends.


We need a route map to measure Video viewership instead of Cable TV viewership

It’s a no-brainer that a significant number of customers are ‘screenagers’. These are not just teenagers but even broader segments moving to Video on Demand via OTT platforms, YouTube, Instagram and other platforms, with mobile as their primary ‘screen’. Zoomers (Age 8-23 years) are the core segment among screenagers and will soon be entering the wider consumer market. We do not have a clear unified picture of their video habits. The challenge is that this is a fresh new evolving ecosystem. It’s nowhere near the current Cable TV ecosystem. So there will not be clear answers. The media stakeholders obviously are different. The user stakeholders are wider than the classical advertising gencies. It will need a big effort to get all stakeholders together, else it will never take off. But without this, we will in any case fail in the long run.


We need an Experimentation Mindset for Hi Tech Audience Measurement

There have been many initiatives undertaken by BARC in the space of hi-tech solutions for measurement. We possiby need to have an experimentation mindset and explore the area with small scale experiments instead of going in for the elusive all encompassing solution set. After a transparent review by an Industry panel, we should chalk out a series of experiments we will do. These can range from compilation of all data in the space of Video viewership from various primary and secondary sources by a special committee to OTT data, short experiments in collaboration with DTH Operators on return path data and mobile led new measurement technologies. Nothing new in the areas to be explored. It’s a change to a learning and experimentation mindset, actioning smaller experiments.


Last but not the least, bring back the Full Transparency and Inclusivity of Yesteryears

The first issue here is BARC ownership and control. Majority holding by IBF will have its own avoidable influence, but we must move on with times. The first point of inclusivity here is to drag advertisers into the ecosystem. Far too long they are putting the onus on agencies and media. It will mean also monetory investments by advertisers, as fees paid to agencies is not adequate to support this and TV Channels are already putting enough money on the table. If we want a holistic video viewing, without advertisers’ active participation, its not going to happen. We have to get this done under any circumstances.


Yes, the yesteryears were in a different league of full transparency and inclusivity. Somewhere, we seem to have lost this all important piece of the media measurement puzzle.


The Research of yesteryears had three principles we can adapt. First, the estimation tree from Census to the estimates relesaed to users was very transparent to all industry segment representatives. The estimation tree today is far more complex and needs a refresh at least every couple of years. Second, there was always a solid cross validation by a special team of users from across Agencies. Today, we have far more data points from distribution reach, DTH operators, OTT ranking data and various Internet and Social Media measurement studies. We need to get a new gen validation process periodically. Thirdly and perhaps more importantly, we need to be far more inclusive towards all media genres. All media, all users, long tail media vehicles also must get a hearing AND a solution of say purposive sampling, booster sample, special panel or a hi tech solution or whatever.


In sum, there are three things all of us in the marcom industry must focus on. Firstly, we must try and fix all shortcomings of the current measurement system. Second, we must start experimentation in tune with the unfolding media future with a definitive vision. Lastly, and more importantly, we need to get advertisrs into the ecosystem and get back to the ‘old fashioned’ Industry model of full transparency of the print hay days..


The current TV ratings crises, thus, presents all of us in marcom with an opportunity to choose our future in Video Measurement. Something we need to do fast. With the simple key principles of Agility in the New-Media ecosystem.


Speed. Learn as you go.

Or be left behind.


We can make a choice.

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