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How will BARC's decision impact news channels?

The views are mixed, but the news genre would do well to improve quality

KOLKATA: L'affaire TV ratings continues.  In an unprecedented move, the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India has decided to cease giving out ratings  for individual news channels as it goes about improving the way it does its measurement and improves security. The twonews  industry associations expressed diamterically opposte views on BARC's decision. While the NBA welcomed it, the NBF expressed its disappoinment at not being consulted. 

A key question that begs asking is: will the absence of ratings  impact the way marketers, media planners and buyers buy air time on the news genres?

BARC data, the only currency to measure what is being watched on TV in India,  plays a major role in the decision-making process of advertisers and agencies. Many news broadcasters are perhaps chewing on their fingernails, fretting over the impact this may have on their revenue.

Some experts from media agencies believe news channels sales folks needn't worry; there may be very little change.

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An expert from a large media agency stated, on the condition of anonymity, that the media-rating blackout is not a brand-new experience. Back in the TAM regime, when linear TV was a much stronger medium, the industry survived without any ratings on several occasions, sometimes for as long as a couple of months. He added that advertising never got impacted due to issues regarding jurisdiction.

Another media executive expressed that there might be a marginal movement of ad dollars to other genres in the short run. "News being a high impact genre can’t be ignored under any circumstances. Further, he cautioned that channels should take note in improving the content quality given the increasing negative sentiment among a part of advertisers as well as viewers," he said.

Parle Products  senior category marketing head BK Rao believes that ratings are not the only inputs that drive buying decisions for TV. "Besides ratings, brands consider other inputs too, such as speaking to distributors, the programming line-up, and time bands," he shared. More importantly, Rao feels  that now the focus will shift to quality, rather than quantity. “Advertisers will be forced to look at the quality aspect. They will have to speak to shareholders to understand the consumption pattern. In general or business news, content will be considered as a key factor. Quality analysis of news will play a major role. Overall, news networks will definitely suffer revenue-wise. Advertising people will shift their revenue to other genres,” he theorised.

Some analysts are playing the waiting game, unwilling to leap to any conclusions. “It is too early. As the situation is evolving, it is difficult to predict now. Everybody is evaluating right now as the scene is unfolding gradually,” said Dentsu India CEO Anand Bhadkamkar.

A senior industry veteran opines that news channels should start leaning towards a subscription  model. "As a group if they decide to go pay and don't break that pact, they will find enough viewing cohorts nationally to help them have a viable business model," says he. "Advertising will then be the cream on top, and not their lifeblood. They will then be able to go about being the fourth estate of society without any worries about the stances they take."
Are the new channels head honchos listening?

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