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Guest Column: Measure by Measure

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Year ends are always a good a time to reflect on the past, take stock of the present and plan for the future. So let me begin, by reflecting on the year that was.  

In 2016, the state of audience measurement in India grew by leaps and bounds. From just 10,000 homes in the previous system, we are already at 22,000 homes, with the course set for 55,000 as mandated. Over the year, the broadcast industry got a better idea of ‘What India Really Watches’, thanks to the addition of rural viewership measurement which BARC introduced– a fact that has been applauded by all. In fact, BARC’s investment in technology has ensured greater robustness in the system, with more automation and less manual interventions. Our system is also very scalable as our Bar-o-meter costs less than US$400 compared to the previously used meters which cost US$2500!

The watermarking technology adopted by BARC, is two generations ahead of the rest. It not only captures catch up TV but also simulcast. What this means is that BARC can monitor any recording of a programme, seen within seven days of its telecast, and can also accurately measure a simultaneous telecast of a cricket match across say 20 channels, including Doordarshan, and can report which channel is drawing the highest eyeballs. In fact, the watermarking technology is also future-ready which can be used for digital measurement, which BARC currently is evaluating.

Taking stock of the present, we at BARC are immensely proud of the credibility we have established and the trust that we have earned from the industry. This has come about as a result of support of our stakeholders and our commitment to transparency. Incidentally, the need for transparency was also the one big reason industry came together and formed BARC. It propelled the need for the formation of a joint industry body, where all stakeholders’ representatives are part of the board and the technical committee. A unique aspect of that is BARCs governance structure which ensures that decisions must necessarily be agreed to jointly. To further strengthen transparency and credibility, BARC has partnered with Ernst & Young (E&Y) so that data can be audited by an external independent auditor. Evidence enough to the seriousness of thought that was given to credible data by the three industry bodies which make up BARC.

Having established credibility in our data and systems, our task for the year ahead on that front is cut out: we will leave no stone unturned in our endeavour to maintain integrity, and take every step possible to ensure a robust and reliable viewership measurement environment: which is essential for the broadcast industry to thrive and grow. The support of our Board validates the faith we have in our systems and processes, and we will continue to build on that. We have set up a vigilance team that works with specialist agencies on the ground to track mala-fide activities. Any attempt to unfairly influence our measurement system has been dealt with firmly and we will continue to maintain zero-tolerance towards any acts of infiltration or tampering of our panel homes.

The TV Industry draws in multiple crores of rupees worth of advertising in a country with over 153.5 million TV homes, where watching TV firmly remains a family routine. Be it entertainment or news, sports or movies, music, kids shows or a national events like Independence and Republic Days, TV will continue to take centre stage in the lives of Indians. And monitoring who is watching what will continue to remain a critical need for the growing stakeholders.

While welcoming 2017, we at BARC, promise to continue our commitment to a transparent and credible viewership measurement system, because that’s the only way we know to measure things.

public://Parth.jpg The author of this article is Broadcast Audience Research Council India CEO. You can follow him on Twitter @parthodasgupta. The views expressed are personal and Indiantelevision.com need not necessarily subscribe to them

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