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BW Businessworld

BARC Finally Bites

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After years of confusion and delays, a new television audience measurement system developed by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has finally gone live with its first data.
For nearly 15 years, TAM Media Research, a joint venture between Kantar Media and AC Nielson, has been ruling the roost as the single currency for eyeball measurement. Dissatisfaction broke out against it almost a decade ago after complaints surfaced about faulty figures based on a very narrow pool of respondents. That’s when the initial attempt at floating BARC as a 60:40 JV between the Indian Broadcasters Foundation and the Indian Society of Advertisers was made in 2008, but it did not materialise. About two years ago, BARC was refloated as a JV in the ratio of 6:2:2 representing TV broadcasters, advertising agencies and advertisers, respectively. 
Determined to get it right, the different stake-holders have sunk in nearly Rs 300 crore to set up the system. BARC has invested around Rs 200 crore in technical expertise and hardware to set up the measurement system, while the TV channels have spent another Rs 100 crore in ‘audio watermarking’ their satellite feeds carried to consumer homes. According to Partho Dasgupta, CEO of BARC, the first set of data released in April represents research based on 12,000 homes covering towns and cities with populations of over a lakh. This is about 50 per cent higher than TAM’s pool of 8,000 homes, and BARC expects to ramp up to 20,000 households in the next 2-3 years. 
Unravelling what ‘India really watches’ is important for all stakeholders. So how does BARC do it better than TAM? Besides a larger respondent base, BARC claims it has a superior, more foolproof audio watermarking technology. BARC also says it works on the latest census figures that makes its demographics rich. Though some of the rankings between BARC and TAM follow similar trajectories like the continued lead of the Star Plus channel in the genre of Hindi general entertainment, there has been considerable disruption in other sectors. For instance, in Karnataka, TAM has been showing Sun Group’s Uday TV as a long-standing leader; however, BARC figures now show Colors Karnataka (earlier ETV) to be ahead with Uday TV sinking to No.5. 
Will TAM survive the onslaught of BARC? It is a question still to be settled. “For TAM Media Research, weekly TV viewership data release to the industry will continue as normal,” the organisation said in a statement.
However, industry information indicates that the TV channels had not renewed their contracts with TAM after they expired in February this year. These broadcasters have now all signed up as subscribers with BARC. Without subscription support, TAM will face an uphill task.
(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 01-06-2015)