The news channels, which were struggling on the revenue front before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been trying hard to stage a rebound and some may also feel the heat of the TRP scam fallout.
The clamour for overhauling of the TV ratings mechanism in the country has resulted in the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) suspending its weekly rating for news channels for 12 weeks.
The news channels, which were struggling on the revenue front prior to theonset of the COVID-19 pandemic, have been trying hard to stage a rebound and some may also feel the heat of the TRP scam fallout.
Hamstrung by low subscription revenues and the urge to outmanoeuvre a competitor, some channels have tried to game the system in ways which can be termed inimical for a sustainable media ecosystem.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, which controls the subscription rates, has come under criticism from various quarters for stifling the growth of the channels on the subscription front.
Thus, the broadcasters which are free-to-air, are dependent on advertising revenues and even those channels which are priced reasonably lower than a premium channel in that category are left at the mercy of the ratings.
The regulator had acknowledged the loopholes in the ratings measurement mechanism and recommended the increase of sampling size to 1,00,000 by 2022.
Impact on ad revenues
Ashish Bhasin, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), APAC & Chairman India - Dentsu, feels the current pause in ratings provides an ‘opportunity to reset’ for the stakeholders. He also said although it is not an ideal scenario for news channels given the festive season timing, the role of TRPs in the purchase of advertising in the news genre is overhyped.
"I think this pause in ratings will benefit in the long run and the tech committee can now look at best way of handling these issues. In terms of impact, there may be some in the short run but according to me, TRP is only a minor element and its role is overhyped. A lot of advertising on news channels is bought on effective rates and data from previous weeks is available. So, that is not a concern. The time has come for news channels to introspect and there should be a code of conduct and behaviour that news channels need to implement both in terms of content and measurement," Bhasin told Moneycontrol.
Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands India, said it is very difficult to assess the impact of the pause in ratings on the revenues of news channels at this point.
"Some clients will spend keeping in mind the festive season while some may want to hold back. In the short-run there may not be much impact but in the long-run, there will be an impact on small news channels," he told Moneycontrol.
So, what is the way out of the current impasse?
"If the government gives approval for return path data, it will be far better. We had raised the request long ago but at this point of time, I don’t think that will happen. The news channels will have to come together and solve this problem. I hope they realise that this can be a defining moment," said Sinha, who is also a member of the core tech committee of BARC.
Look at top advertisers on news channels
According to TAM AdEx data, over 2,000 brands aired their products during the period October-December last year and compared to January-September 2019.
Colgate topped the charts during the festive period last year, followed by Attica Gold Company, Sachi Saheli Ayurvedic Group, MDH Masala range and Amazon.
Among top brands exclusively present on English news channels during the period April-September 2020, two were from the services sector while the top most exclusive brand was from the education sector.As for the Hindi news genre, the top most exclusive brand was from the personal healthcare sector.