Implications of BARC's rural-urban data split: An analysis

By Anirban Roy Choudhury , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | May 30, 2016
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So far, BARC has released two batches of segregated data for rural and urban regions for Hindi GECs.

India is a heterogenous country where every 100 kilometres reveal a totally different scenario. Despite its heterogenous nature there are two broad classifications that the country has: 'Bharat' and 'India'. While Bharat signifies the rural part of the country, where people's aspiration is to live an 'Indian' life, at the other end, 'India' is a dot com-equipped one. From the media and entertainment perspective, 'Bharat' (rural) is the one which hardly encountered with the pay TV phenomenon, and hence, missed the 'Kahaniis', 'Uttarans', and epics like 'Jodha Akbar'.

Moreover, they are now enjoying the DD Freedish services which enable them to watch the Free-To-Air (FTA) channels. 'India' pays hefty amounts per month to get access to high-quality televised content. But, most importantly, 'Bharat' is the one that satisfies itself with basic needs, while 'India' has huge disposable incomes and is never satisfied; those in 'India' are the 'lucrative' ones for bomb-spending brands.

Implications of BARC's rural-urban data split: An analysis

The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India, the television ratings auditor body, after its rural rollout, was bombarded with questions on how are rural and urban FTA and PayTV measured and listed on the same list after BARC's rural roll out channels like Zee Anmol, Sony Pal, and Star Utsav, which have no investment on content, getting placed over Colors and Star Plus.

BARC India has 22,000 bar-o-meters in India. Seventy per cent of those are placed in urban India, while the remaining 30 per cent are installed in rural India. Says an insider at BARC India, "Given the homogenous nature of TV viewing patterns in rural India, 30 per cent representation is no worse than 50 per cent."

While all the big broadcasters had their FTA presence, seeing their pay channels drop was an agonising sight for them, and gradually, they started voicing it. The loudest of all was Colors CEO Raj Nayak, who has been unabashedly vocal about it. Week 18 must have pleased him; that's when BARC India dished out its first batch of separate ratings for urban and rural.

BARC India, clarifies, however, "It must be noted that these separate rankings for urban and rural viewership of the top Hindi general entertainment channels/programmes were only reported in the data that BARC India puts out for the public at large - on its website, social media platforms, etc. BARC India users (subscribers) have always had the option of looking at these data cuts within the BMW software, and this was not the first time broadcasters and agencies saw this data split."

Raj Nayak

"We have been advocating this for long. We welcome this development. All broadcasters have separate pay and FTA strategy, and it is unfair to club pay and FTA channels together," reacts Nayak.

He feels this will enable broadcasters to maximise their earning potential from both urban and rural markets. "With the separate data release for the two strata, it will now be imperative for broadcasters to push the agenda for getting the right value for the two sets of different eyeballs on offer for the advertisers. Depending on the specific audiences that the advertiser wants to target, broadcasters will now be able to clearly differentiate, and hence, get the right value from the advertiser," he adds.

Separate urban - rural selling is on the cards as far as Colors is concerned. "At Colors, we are already thinking of selling urban and rural separately. Technology allows us to do that. This will help both the advertiser and the broadcaster who can now target the urban and rural viewer separately," informs Nayak.

This is a step in the right direction, but there is no reason to restrict only with GECs, believes Nayak. "GEC is the best space to start this with, especially since the key FTA players are GECs. However, going forward, movies, regional, would be important genres for the data to be clearly segregated, especially with multiple launches in these genres in the FTA space catering to the rural eyeballs," he opines.

Apart from the rural - urban separation, Nayak also voiced his reservations against the idea of 'ranking'. "This is my personal view and I have voiced it to Partho Dasgupta (CEO of BARC India). I believe BARC's job is to collect data and give it out as it is. I feel it shouldn't give rankings of channels, it is for the broadcaster and the advertiser to interpret and decipher data the way they want to see it," says Nayak.

He goes on to say, "Ours is not a weekly business, maybe the data comes out every week (actually, it should come out every day as it happens in some other evolved markets), but the decisions we make are long-term. This weekly No.1, No.2 story actually puts tremendous pressure on content teams."

Anisha Motwani

Pravin Kulkarni

Anita Nayyar

Ashish Bhasin

The insider at BARC India tells us that following stakeholders' proposals, the ratings body held an interactive campaign asking if they (the stakeholders) wanted the segregation. The survey supported the proposal and BARC went ahead and did the segregation. The segregation did not require any major technological change, informed the insider.


Anisha Motwani, former chief marketing and digital officer, Max Life Insurance (author of Storm the Norm)

The core of any marketing plan is the core segment and the core geography. If BARC's data helps achieve that it's great for the industry. I see this move help in more specific targetting and the wastage can be avoided.

Pravin Kulkarni, general manager, Parle Products

"For brands targeting rural markets, DD was the only option earlier. Now we have more options, so it helps us design our media plan better. Targetting also becomes finer and wastage can be avoided because of this data. Sony Pal and Zee Anmol have already hiked their ad rates, and now the other broadcasters in the Top 10 will do the same."

Planner Speak

A quick at what media planners say about the development...

Anita Nayyar, CEO, India and South Asia, Havas Media Group

It will, of course, make a big difference for us. Now we know where the rural and urban stands independently. This will help us plan more effectively, and will certainly result in more fine-tuned investment. Broadcasters, too, will now strategise their rural and urban inventories accordingly. We were talking to BARC for a long time for this.

Ashish Bhasin, chairman and CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network South Asia

The rural data is what is important, the segregation is just another tool for agencies. Media planners will plan seeing both the data, the split just becomes an add-on. We need to understand it is not like stock exchange, how we make it look, the rates never change every week.

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