Landing pages are bonafide methods of marketing: MK Anand

The landing page has become a bone of contention in the news broadcast industry.

Mumbai: The landing page is the first channel where the TV viewer lands when anyone turns on the set-top box, which has become a bone of contention in the news broadcast industry. On one side, there are its critics who have criticized its influence on news ratings that are a currency for negotiating with advertisers. On the other hand, there are its advocates who believe that it is merely a marketing tool.

The latter view is held by Times Network managing director & CEO, MK Anand, who unflinchingly states that “Landing pages are bonafide methods of marketing.”

Times Network has been instrumental in securing the order by Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) which recognised the landing page as a legitimate tool for promotion, allowing the broadcasting industry to continue using it.

News broadcasters have argued that channels are paying ‘astronomical sums’ for placement on the landing page. The cost of placement on the landing page amounting to several crores cannot be matched by the revenue potential of the news genre that is heavily reliant on advertising.

Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) has attempted to mitigate the impact of the landing page on TV viewership in the past. In September 2020, it introduced algorithms into its data validation method to mitigate the impact of landing pages on viewership data across all genres of channels.

More specifically, after an extensive review by the Barc oversight committee, it improved or replaced its existing method based on symptomatic statistics with a method that directly uses inferential statistics.

The viewership data for individual news channels have once again become available after a ‘ratings dark’ period of 18 months and with-it complaints about the accuracy of the ratings. Barc is unable to completely exclude landing page data from its viewership estimates.

Can the news broadcast industry come to a resolution on the landing page issue? Industry leader MK Anand responds to questions by

Do you agree with the view that landing pages are a marketing tool? If yes, should Barc include a disclaimer on news channel data that has been influenced by landing pages?

Landing pages are bonafide methods of marketing. Every product you purchase has some element of promotion in it. Do we need disclaimers to know that the toothpaste we use has been promoted?

Does the landing page significantly influence ratings even after Barc's efforts to mitigate its impact? How much does it influence advertiser spending as they consider looking at 13 weeks' data to plan budgets? Barc itself is looking at four-week rolling average data for all genres.

Landing pages provide the viewer with a window to watch when he puts on the set-top box. It does not automatically convert to viewership unless the viewer has spent more than a minute on the channel. This means the content has to be compelling enough. Imagine you put your TV set on and a blank screen comes on and you have the remote in your hand. Would you keep watching the screen for one whole minute or more?

News broadcasters claim that the landing page leads to un-competitiveness in the news genre as bigger marketing budgets and not content is influencing the ratings which are a representation of authentic TV viewership. Do you agree with this claim?

That’s a spurious argument. As explained above, viewership is registered only if the viewer continues to stay on the channel. Also, there is nothing unauthentic or otherwise about promoted viewership. These are arguments put forth by players who are unwilling to or unable to spend and compete. This campaign against landing pages is just another form of protectionism.

What can news channels do to resolve the landing page issue? Should the industry collectively bar itself from using landing pages?

In a free market, competition takes care of such issues. Collective behaviour is akin to cartelisation.

What can Barc do to resolve the landing page issue?

Barc should continue to report what India watches on TV channels that employ bonafide and legal means of content development & distribution.

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