Industry optimistic about RPD technology for viewership

MUMBAI: Across the world, efforts are on to make audience measurement systems more reliable and tamper-proof so that advertisers can get the right value and content providers can tailor content as per market demand.

Return Path Data (RPD) is a globally used system for collecting viewership data and is used by distribution players to study consumer behaviour in the UK, US, Canada and South East Asia. India’s Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) has tied up with Airtel Digital TV, Den Networks and Siti for including its subscriber homes on the BARC India RPD Panel. The partnerships will provide a fillip to BARC India’s plan for scaling up panel homes to multiples of the mandated 50,000.

Zee Melt 2018 saw a session on ‘how return path data will turbo-boost television audience measurement globally’ with panellists DEN Networks Group CTO Sanjay Jain, IndiaCast EVP Amit Arora, Tata Sky CCO Arun Unni, Star India head data science and IT Kaushik Das, Numeris Canada VP research Ricardo Gomez-Insausti and TRAI principal advisor Debkumar Chakrabarti. The panel was moderated by Castle Media executive director Vynsley Fernandes.

Chakrabarti said that single third-party body with proper governance structure is best placed to do RPD. BARC India, with its experience of panel-based TV measurement is best placed to partner with DTH and cable platforms for RPD based measurement. “This will avoid confusion, give single comparable metric and thus give confidence to both advertisers and broadcasters. It has been the experience in other fields that multiple bodies can lead to conflict and confusion,” he said.

Tata Sky too has realised the importance of increasing the panel home size. While it started RPD with 10,000 boxes, it has now upped it to 30,000. “Considering the changing consumer preferences, their choice of content also changes. This makes it important to refresh the panel every year,” said Unni. He also added that it is still representative of only seven to eight per cent of Indian households. “RPD is the lifeline and every decision taking place in the future will be based on this data. Changes in environment lead to consumer behaviour changes and it is fundamental to do business.”

Das said that first we need to understand the raw data right. In terms of OTT you know exactly what every viewer is doing; whereas in linear, you have limited samples. “If we look at what Google and Facebook are doing, we need to understand our viewers correctly. What makes them choose to turn on a TV channel or to watch a show on OTT and unless we really know why they are making a choice what they like, what they don’t like, it is very difficult to respond appropriately because TRPs exist today, all of us know that we have been exposed to Netflix and the user experience we get from that, there is no reason why Indian television cannot provide the same user experience.”

According to Arora, there is a need for a single agency for RPD as it is only then that the platform will remain neutral. “I am presuming that we are talking about one single agency realising now that actually, it has to be the representative of the 1100 platforms that we have in our country.” He said that we cannot have a Netflix kind of an environment where every viewer sending the time and then what is the size of sample will remain the question.  

The motivation for Den Networks to join hands with BARC India came from their need to go beyond just installing Den STBs in subscribers’ homes. “We wanted insights into viewer behaviour to understand who is watching what. This data is important for us to be able to present the kind of content that consumers actually want,” Jain said.

Unni said that they have been closely watching what’s happening for the last 12-18 months. He said that huge digital consumption has been happening in the country. “How did it impact our platform, which segments of our consumers are visiting and what’s the reaction to that, so does it mean that the platform consumption is going down? It doesn’t actually,” he said.

Unni added that the digital data consumption has gone up. It is adding on top, rather than substituting conventional television.

Star has subscribed to the RPD data from Tata Sky. But it too agrees that broad-basing the RPD panel would be the right way to move ahead. Das said, “For better targeting, we need to experiment. Currently, we do not have enough data that gives deep insights into consumer behaviour.”

Arora explained his point by giving an example that a particular platform with whom the data is available, the data is open for intervention, and so those safety pacts will become the most important thing altogether. So now, what is relevant? “India being such a rigorous country, the representation of every language, every society, and every market for that matter may have lower RPDs influencing the data in the different markets,” he added.

Summing up the panel discussion, Fernandes said that RPD is a way to go in the future as it increases the sample size; it increases our understanding overall of stakeholder levels by the broadcasters, big agencies, digital platform operators and benefits to consumers. It is very important to have a single apex body in terms of monitoring all the data provided a single currency to the industry. 

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