The pros and cons of Barc’s ADRS for news genre

Barc India resumed ratings for individual news channels on 17 March.

Mumbai: After a gap of nearly 18 months, Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) India resumed the ratings for individual news channels with the release of data for Week 10 '2022 on 17 March. Following an industry-wide consultation process, the ratings agency developed the Augmented Data Reporting Standards (ADRS) for news and special interest genres, as per which audience estimates for these genres will be released based on a four-week rolling average, every week.

The new system was devised to address the problem of smaller sample size, technically ‘incidence,’ which makes the news and niche genres prone to error and rigging. The four-week rolling average thus provides more robust and reliable viewership estimates with lower levels of error as compared to the earlier weekly reporting standard. 

While the technicalities seem to be in place, stakeholders including broadcaster, advertisers and media planners though largely welcoming of the ADRS, have expressed certain reservations regarding it, ranging from downright disapproval to a ‘good for now’ and ‘wait and watch’ approach. 

Insubstantial as it returns

By and large, the ‘return of the ratings’ was welcomed by the industry; it was celebration for some, and vindication for others. And yet there were players who refused to accept it altogether.  Just days before the ratings resumed, a leading news broadcaster pulled out of Barc citing the changes offered as 'alarmingly insubstantial.' It was apparently displeased with the ratings agency’s unwillingness to work on its sample size which, it thought, was inadequate to ensure a measurement process free from manipulation.  

A person from the authority tells with a condition of anonymity that while the sample size of nearly 40,000-50,000 that Barc works with is fairly adequate, what really makes the data prone to both error and rigging is the “comparatively miniscule viewership of news and special interest genres.”

“Statistically speaking because the ‘incidence’ - which is inversely proportional to the level of error - is far lower as compared to other genres, increasing the sample size will not impact the efficacy or sanctity of data/ratings in any way. The well-thought transition to the ADRS (four-week rolling average) is therefore the best approach to providing the most accurate estimates for news and niche genre viewership,” he says.

Impact on media planning

Sharing his thoughts at a panel discussion organised by last month, Omnicom Media Group India managing partner and head of investment Yatin Balyan says that weekly data helps understanding how their investments on a particular programme have performed, and to develop a learning base for making a futuristic recommendation. “While we take a long-term view on a four-week, eight-week or 13-week average basis, weekly ratings are important because not every event that we buy has a longer format," Balyan tells. 

Patanjali Ayurved COO – media and communications Anita Nayyar too highlights that owing to high volatility in programming in the news space regular reporting of ratings is important. "Unlike GECs, there is no reason why a newcomer cannot top the charts in the news genre because it is completely dependent on the content and the pulse of the audience the channel touches upon," she adds. 

However, for exactly the same reasons as mentioned above, an average will give a better understanding of viewership for a news channel, the expert points out. “The ADRS ought to be welcomed by the media planners for it makes life much simpler for them by reducing the disparity in planned and actual GRPs delivered on a campaign. There’s also the fact that news programming can only be altered so much, whatever the TRPs.”

Advertisers speak  

Maruti Suzuki India executive director (marketing and sales) Shashank Shrivastava is quite content with the new ratings standards. “Since we usually run regular and slightly longer campaigns for both sustenance and brand launch on news channels our media planning will not be affected as much as someone’s who goes for shorter, one off investment,” he shares. 

News is a crucial genre for Maruti, speaking of impact and affinity among its TG. The automaker employs GECs for reach. “We generally prefer only the top three channels in any vertical, be it business, English, Hindi or vernacular news, and analyse it by market. Our experience and the ratings that have now been released also shows that there has not been much fluctuation in these rankings,” remarks Shrivastava.

Dabur India head Rajiv Dubey is happy that the ratings are back and the trend that has emerged, justifies his marketer’s instincts that assumed increased relevance during the blackout days. Dabur is prominent advertiser on news channels, particularly Hindi and regional. The genre comes second after GECs for the FMCG major. 

Commenting on the likely impact of the new reporting standards on his media strategy, he says, “I do not see it as having a significant impact, as media plans are not made or changed on a weekly basis. We consider a four to thirteen-week average for it.” 

That being said, Dubey expects to have more weekly and granular data from Barc going ahead. “It is important to have a common standard across genres for comparative planning and to understand the viewership trends for special events/programming on news channels where my campaign may appear,” he insists. Expressing concern over “Barc’s rather secretive approach to a particular genre,” Dubey says he will continue using other sources like Zapr, data from DTH platforms and the company’s own internal survey which became his mainstay during the blackout. 

It may be of interest here to note that Barc has capped the ‘Customised Events Reports’ (CER) available for broadcasters “to meet their commercial needs” at 12 for a financial year. 

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