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Agencies, advertisers weigh in on BARC India filtering out outlier data

Removing outliers gives more transparent and reliable data.

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MUMBAI: Recently, The Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC) announced that it is reverting to its earlier process of treatment of landing pages and filtering out outliers from the data as it released its week 23 ratings. This came just a week after the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) verdict allowing broadcasters and distributors of television channels to place registered satellite television channels (whose TV rating was measured by BARC India) on the landing page or boot up screen.

This frequent change in the measurement module might have led to some confusion within the advertising community that relies heavily on BARC data for its marketing planning on television. Marketers Indiantelevision.com spoke to said that they prefer this data filtered out.

MediaCom general manager Sudipto Chatterjee explained that any sudden spike in the reach or viewership of a channel is termed as an outlier. Citing an example of English news channels, which have comparatively lesser sampling than any other news channels, he elaborated, “Let’s say it has a base of 1000 subscribers and even if 150-250 more people view it, the range will look like it has shot up greatly, thus being counted as an outlier.”

Placing channels on the landing page may lead to such outlier spikes but the viewership might not follow since it depends on the content that a channel features and that’s what media planners and marketers look at while strategising their plans.

Chatterjee added, “We need to understand that in overall media planning, the outliers might just amount for 5-10 per cent of investment. It will not add anything to the GRP or reach. It is based on your consumer affinity. For media planners like us, we do not really buy numbers. It is more about content and what kind of audience I am looking at. Nobody looks at the minimal up and down in the ratings.”

RK Swamy BBDO president and director Sangeetha N also mentioned that the landing page strategy is generally adopted by channels with very low ratings and any surges, even due to calculation errors, on such low bases, will be insignificant.

She said, “For how long can a channel with poor content but deep pockets hold viewer attention by forcing landing page viewing? Only good content will define where the target audience will move to.”

Carat India SVP Mayank Bhatnagar also shared similar views as he noted, “I feel that landing page is a mechanism to get people to sample a channel. If the content is good, one will continue to watch the channel or else they will move on. It doesn’t matter if the channel has the landing page rights for a month or even a year. Content is the key to get the viewership.”

Advertisers also share a similar view. Angel Broking chief marketing officer Prabhakar Tiwari shared, “In our view, landing page is a purely promotional exercise. As per some industry data, a channel may get an increased viewership between 4 to 18 per cent subject to target demographics of a particular cable operator by investing in landing page-based promotions. We also have our internal research to guide us, as we take channel-specific media calls. Media decisions are taken after a lot of deliberation and we measure all factors before coming to a decision.”

Although the data, filtered or unfiltered, does not really impact the marketing strategies, experts prefer having filtered statistics at their hands as it is more transparent and reliable, and thus feel that BARC India’s decision is a welcome move.

Sangeetha noted, “The resuming of outliers being filtered out – whether manually or through automation – will mean more meaningful data, closer to reality, and hence will be welcomed. By this method, no channel gets preference over another by getting the landing page rights through the purchase of the same, hence prima facie no channel can have an unfair advantage.”

Bhatnagar said, “By eliminating the outlier data, all channels are now on the same platform and can have an end-to-end comparison. Now it all depends on content.”

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