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Unethical viewership enhancing has spiralling effect, leads to carriage fee hike, says Chrome DM

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MUMBAI:  Whether or not a measuring agency or a ratings body approve of members who indulge in unethical means of doing business? Whether or not the business is doing well is only their mandate – however.

MIB has directed BARC India to stop generating ratings of those channels that use landing pages to boost viewership through high sampling and reach for their channels. On earlier occasions, when a broadcasters body had sought BARC to stop measuring a new channel’s ratings, the platform-agnostic measurement agency did not heed the advice.

Going by the past trends, broadcasters have been actively using landing pages to boost viewership. The logic is simple - a landing page ensures higher probability of the channel being watched, much like a supermarket where higher visibility of a product leads to impulse buying. Similarly, the channel with higher availability increases the chances of higher visibility, which eventually increases viewership.

Commenting on MIB’s decision, Chrome Data Analytics & Media CEO Pankaj Krishna said: “We support MIB’s decision of preventing channels using unethical routes to enhance their viewership, for e.g., if a channel opts for dual LCN, the others are compelled to follow it to safeguard their numbers, consequently causing the spiralling effect of increased carriage fees. However, a landing page is purely a promotional exercise. As long as a channel is not running on dual LCN, there is nothing unethical about the concept of channels using landing pages.”

As per the Chrome DM Landing Page Report- Week 36, 2017, there are over 400 landing pages active as on 05-09-2017 and are spread across channels and genres all over cable and DTH platforms.

Source: Chrome DM Landing Channel Report, Wk-35, 2017
Source: Chrome DM Landing Channel Report, Wk-35, 2017

Dual LCN denotes a channel running on two separate LCN#s within the same cable operator’s/DTH platforms feed.

He further added, “A channel’s presence on the landing page does not denote it being present on Dual LCN. All landing pages do not constitute dual LCN.”

Typically, there are, according to Chrome, three cases of landing pages that can arise:

CASE 1: Channel LCN as a landing page – So for e.g. if a channel is running on LCN #234 – and the set-top box switches on to LCN#234 hosting that Channel, the channel becomes the landing page.   

CASE 2: Dual LCN with one LCN being a Landing Page – If a channel is running on LCN#234 – but the set-top box initiates a switches on to another LCN#, e.g. LCN#001, also hosting the same channel (as the landing page), that constitutes to a Dual LCN.

CASE 3: Dual LCN with neither being a Landing Page - When a channel is present on two different LCN#s e.g. LCN#234 & LCN#675 within different genres of the EPG, where neither is a landing page.

Chrome DM believes that there could be a concern in the latter 2 cases – as they constitute to Dual LCNs leading to an unsustainable model of boosting viewership through higher sampling and reach for these channels.

Landing pages are simple marketing exercises – mirroring an FMCG company placing its products at the entry/exit cash counters to boost sales. We believe MSOs have been monetizing landing pages as a source of additional revenue stream by running promos and commercials.

As per the Chrome DM Distribution Investment Index – “The yearly generated revenue ranges from Rs 50 million to as high as Rs 200 million for major MSOs and is all accounted for.

What is more important as an industry endeavour is to focus more on achieving 100 per cent digitisation in India, which missed its 31 March, 2017 deadline. Interestingly, analogue signals continue to be carried out in many parts of the country, indicating a lack of addressability and transparency that only digitisation can solve.

It will be interesting to see how BARC India, armed with software to primarily measure viewership for television channels and programmes in different geographies, will deal with the diktat to detect viewership from a particular distribution platform.

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