In a case of what is being called the ‘TRP racket’, the Mumbai police last week named a national news channel alongside two other regional channels, accusing them of tampering with data from Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). While the police continue to investigate how BARC ratings were manipulated, they have also clearly mentioned ‘funds from advertising will be considered proceeds of crime’ if the accused are found guilty. Further investigations will also include a probe on finding out whether advertisers are victims or complicit in the case.
TRP measurement explained
Television Rating Points (TRP) is a metric used in the marketing and advertising industry to measure the percentage of the target audience reached. For calculating ratings, BARC defines TRP as the percentage of a target audience who viewed an event, averaged across minutes. BARC measures TRP by installing barometers in some houses. These are called ‘People’s Meter’ and are connected to their TV sets. This device records for how long different channels or TV programmes are being watched. The meter records the channel on which the TV is set, the programmes being played and for how long were the shows watched.
The TRP controversy
Higher the TRP, higher is a channel’s negotiating power with advertisers. With a drop in TRP, channels may see an eventual reduction in ad bills. Just a couple of months back, the News Broadcasters Federation (NBF) reached out to BARC, expressing concerns about not just the ratings but also questioning the integrity and impartiality of the ratings body. NBF named a certain news channel and said there was scathing evidence to indicate manipulation and tampering of BARC meters by the group.
This time, however, the prime accused in introducing an anomaly into the system is Hansa Research Group, a consumer insights company. Praveen Nijhara, CEO, Hansa Research, said in response, “Hansa Research and BARC conducted an investigation into the matter over the last few weeks, the conclusion of which resulted in Hansa Research filing an FIR against an ex-employee who was engaged in some wrongdoing. Hansa Research has always been vigilant about these issues and has been proactive in informing BARC and the law enforcement agencies as and when such cases have come to our notice.”
Meanwhile, BARC also issued a statement on Thursday, saying: “As in all our previous cases of suspected panel homes intrusions, BARC India continues to follow its established vigilance and disciplinary guidelines. BARC remains steadfastly true to its purpose to accurately and faithfully report ‘What India Watches’. BARC India appreciates the efforts of the Mumbai Police and will provide the support asked of it.” The current crisis may also impact advertiser spends on TV news channels, despite their reach. It remains to be seen if this will also affect festive marketing spends.
WHY TRPs MATTER
- Television Rating Points (TRP) is a metric used in the marketing and advertising industry to measure the percentage of the target audience reached
- Higher the TRP, higher is a channel’s negotiating power with advertisers
- With a drop in TRP, channels may see an eventual reduction in ad bills
THE TRP CONTROVERSY
- The Mumbai police last week named a national news channel alongside two other regional channels, accusing them of tampering with data from BARC
- Just a couple of months back, the News Broadcasters Federation (NBF) also reached out to BARC, expressing concerns about the ratings and impartiality of the ratings body
- As per the latest TAM data, the news genre has added 31% share of ad volume between August and September, leaving behind GECs with a 26% share
- The accuracy of TRPs thus plays a vital role in maintaining the stability of the ecosystem
- It remains to be seen if advertisers will withdraw spends on the TV channels embroiled in the controversy