was born after great trauma. It took three consultation papers, the death of TAM Media Research’s rating business and over seven years of agonising over ownership, shareholding, technology, methodology, money and so on. It is a 60:20:20 venture between Indian Broadcasting Foundation, Indian Society of Advertisers and Advertising Agencies Association of India. These three bodies were the guarantors for the Rs 180 crore that Barc
raised from banks to get started.
Currently it monitors the TV viewership of over 200,000 Indians in 45,500 homes to project onto 836 million Indians in 197 million homes. That is up from about 40,000 people in 2015. Everybody, including broadcasters, would like a bigger sample but going from 45,500 to 100,000 homes will take Rs 75 crore in capital and several times of that in operating expenses. Who will foot the bill? At about Rs 300 crore in revenues Barc just about keeps its head above water.
Broadcasters, who bring in more than 85 per cent of Barc’s subscription-based revenues, have no appetite to pay more.
Largely because they are happy with the system. For general entertainment channels, the current sample size is robust. But niche and news broadcasters have a problem. The sample for say English or Telugu news is too small to zoom in on an anchor or show on say a Friday night. For years TAM and then Barc have advised them to analyse trends over longer periods of time, say a few weeks; to no avail. Many anchors and news broadcasters like to think that they are leading and get annoyed when Barc data shows otherwise. Several have tried tampering and other dodgy ways to creep up the charts. News broadcasting brings in just 10 per cent of Barc’s topline, but a bulk of its complaints. If increasing the sample is an issue why not give up on news ratings? Keep it to genres which can be properly measured.
Much of this discussion is pointless for two reasons.
One, even if the ratings system is broken and stakeholders are complaining, the regulator has no business getting into it. Readership data has been through a harrowing time. Ditto for box office data, which continues to be dodgy. It is the job of the industries that use these currencies to fix them, not the regulator.
Two, Barc came long after the UK’s Broadcast Audience Research Board (owned mostly by broadcasters), the US’s Nielsen dependent system and France’s Médiamétrie (industry-owned and operated). It assimilates best practices from across the world in a tough market. This has been noted. Barc’s former founding CEO Partho Dasgupta could soon be helping setting up ‘Barc-like’ structures across three different continents.
But to ensure that no fingers are pointed at it, a better system of rotating the board, getting smaller broadcasters, also advertisers and agencies, more involved is needed. While advertisers don’t complain about ratings, none have stood up for Barc publicly. If Barc wants to change the (somewhat accurate) perception that it is run by large broadcasters, it will have to work harder at co-opting all its shareholders into taking ownership of the metric and being its public face.