Benita Chacko

Advertisers look forward to BARC releasing news genre viewership data

The advertisers have been investing ad spends on these channels, since October 2020, without any data to back their decisions.

Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India is set to resume its Television Rating Points (TRP) for news channels after over a year. This comes after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting asked it last week to release the ratings for the news genre with immediate effect.

While the absence of viewership data meant less sensationalism and more sensible coverage for the audience, it also meant a drop in ad rates for the channels. With five states going to the polls next month, the channels are expecting a surge in viewership. The return of TRP at this time will be ideal for the channels to rake in its due.

This also brings good news for the advertisers, who have been investing ad spends on these channels without any data to back their decisions.

Shashank Srivastava, executive director, sales and marketing, Maruti Suzuki India.
Shashank Srivastava, executive director, sales and marketing, Maruti Suzuki India.

The auto industry’s TG has a high affinity for news, sports and GEC channels and so it heavily advertises in it. Shashank Srivastava, executive director, sales and marketing, Maruti Suzuki India, says they continued to invest in it even when the ratings stopped, because the medium made a difference from an engagement perspective to reach the TG.

“The ratings coming in would be good, because then we’ll know exactly how good our investments have been. Are we investing too much or too little? Are the channels in which we are investing effective? Is it in line with the ratings? Ratings will help us decide if we’re getting the right returns,” he said.

“My prediction is that you could end up seeing a change in investment levels when the ratings come through within the news genre, across channels. Investment levels from different advertisers will recalibrate once the ratings are out,” he added.

Rajiv Dubey
Rajiv Dubey

The news genre is important for Dabur as well. In fact, after GECs, news is the most important genre in terms of investments. Rajiv Dubey, senior general manager and head of media, Dabur, said, “It's close to the heartland. They are free to air and have a much larger coverage.”

In the absence of ratings it relied on the last available data from September-October 2020. Then it started looking at Zapr data, “which we used to not get very regularly, but it was used to get the order of the top channels.”

Dubey said in the process the newer and smaller channels lost out. “We did not know how the channels were doing and how important they were becoming. So we could not spend on the channels which were down the line. So the top channels have benefited in the last 15 months, but the smaller channels got wiped out,” he said.

“The data should be available to advertisers as it is our ad revenue that supports the channels. Without the data we are not able to make a clear judgement of where to invest. Eventually the money is getting accumulated on the top three to four channels and it's not getting a fair distribution across the network. If there’s no data, gradually people like us who are very data-driven will go out of the genre completely,” he added.

BARC had paused releasing ratings for news channels in October 2020 with the TRP scam. It had stated that it was looking at ways to improve statistical robustness and would return in 8-12 weeks. But it has not returned yet.

During this time, many feel that the quality of news content has improved as there is no competition to grab eyeballs. The channels are creating less polarising and sensational content. So are the advertisers concerned that the return of TRP may bring news channels back to square one?

Srivastava said, “Irrespective of whether the ratings were there or not, both the advertisers and consumers have become quite sensitive to the nature of content of the news channels. As a brand, we are also very conscious of our brand safety and the association with the content, if possible. So brand association with particular news or channels or news programs, is also a matter of which advertisers closely watch before they decide to invest.”

Meanwhile Dubey feels that all channels sensationalise and it is better only to go by ratings than judging the content.

“Every channel is sensationalising, so how do we decide which is better? So we'll leave this to the data. Ultimately, as an advertiser, we see where the viewership is, rather than being a judge. So it's better to decide on the basis of data,” he said.

The MIB directed BARC, on January 12, to release the ratings for the news genre with immediate effect, and also to release the last three months data for the genre in a monthly format, for fair and equitable representation of true trends. However, reports suggest that it will take BARC sometime to release the data.

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