News Broadcasters’ Association questions BARC’s viewership data
NBA had alleged that the data for the new English news channel Republic TV was defective and that discrepancies have been noticed across markets.
The NBA move was in retaliation to what the broadcasters have termed as BARC’s “indifference” towards its request not to publish viewership ratings of recently launched English news channel Republic TV.
NBA had alleged that the data for the new channel was defective. This is because the BARC data showed share and reach across some markets, for which there was no logic or rationale. NBA has told BARC that on a pan-India basis, discrepancies have been noticed across markets, which completely distort the statistics for a very important and influential news genre.
Importantly, Republic TV has claimed a leadership position in the genre on the basis of one week of data, whereas as per BARC guidelines, a channel cannot claim leadership unless it has been ahead of its competitors in terms of average viewership over four consecutive weeks. Additionally, it cannot consider data for less than four consecutive hours of programming.
Multiple channels in the genre have shared data with ET highlighting various discrepancies.
A senior executive of a new channel pointed out that the time spent per viewer (TSV) numbers for Republic TV in three markets – Chennai, Calcutta and Madhya Pradesh/Chattisgarh for week 19 (May 6-12) are inexplicable. “TSV is almost six times of normal in these three markets. This has also led to huge TVT (television viewership in thousands or impressions) numbers,” he said.
“In fact these three markets contributed to 57% of Republic TV's total performance of 1,312 thousand impressions. If these three markets were to be corrected to Republic TV's own average TSV levels in the remaining markets, their total number would drop by about 580,000 impressions. Shouldn’t there be a mechanism to control such runaway TSV numbers? Statistically, aren't these outliers that need correction?” he asked.
According to viewership data sourced from NBA members, Republic TV managed to register 523,000 impressions or 40% out of its 1,312,000 impressions. Incidentally, Chennai’s overall weight in All India 1 million-plus towns is a mere 7%.
Moreover, Republic TV, despite being available only in 60% of Chennai — it is not available on platforms such as SCV, JAK communication Sun DTH and Aadhar digital — has achieved a reach of 317,000, which is 70% more than average reach of English general news genre channels.
Further, the daily time spent per viewer on the channel in Chennai comes to 22 minutes which is very high compared to 4 and 3 minutes spent on other channels during the week. In fact, in the first 18 weeks of 2017, daily time spent on the genre in Chennai was all of 8 minutes.
It is important to note that while English news consumption is usually higher in Chennai, it is still an analogue cable market and Republic TV has been beamed on multiple frequencies in the market.
Similar trends have been noticed in Kolkata (average daily TSV of 18 minutes for Republic TV, while 11 minutes daily TSV was registered by the genre in first 18 weeks). For MP/CG Republic TV’s average daily TSV was as high as 19 minutes, compared to total of 7 minutes in first 18 weeks for the English news genre.
Meanwhile, in the week 20 data (May 13-19), TVTs of Republic TV have gone down to 481,000, while average daily TSV is also down to 16 minutes from previous week’s 22. However, even this, the executive says, is still hard to justify.
BARC India, in a written reply to queries from ET, clarified: “It is important to understand that the entire English news channel genre has grown in week 19. Also the viewership for Republic has come from many markets and not skewed to a few."
Shashi Sinha, chairman of BARC technical committee, said the issue was that the audience for English news channels was small in absolute terms leading to small samples which led to an error. "While BARC is stable English news being less incidence leading to small sample has a possibility of large error levels from a satistical perspective hence could be leading variations," Sinha said.
BARC officials say the broadcasters have to factor in Relative Error, that is , for channels with a low viewership base (like English News Channels) — due to low sampling — the margin of Relative Error is on the higher side.
Meanwhile, in the all-India market (cities with population of over 1 million), the average weekly reach of the English news genre for the first 18 weeks was at 1.78 million, which jumped 140% to 4.27 million in week 19 (May 6-12). While Times Now, India Today TV, and NDTV 24X7 witnessed increase of 119%, 5% and 10%, respectively, Republic TV opened at almost half of the genre’s reach. Many executives in media agencies find the jump in reach hard to explain.
According to BARC India: “Analysis of viewership movement has shown that many viewers of Hindi News genre have also moved to Republic TV. The ones in English news genre from where viewers moved to Republic are India Today Television, BBC World News and News X. Times Now has registered a growth of 132%, while NDTV 24X7 and CNN News18 have grown by 13% and 38%, respectively.”