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NTO – The Swatch Bharat Abhiyan in Television Industry

India is projected to be the second fastest-growing advertising market in Asia after China. Traditional mediums, such as television and print, are still the primary choices amongst the Indian advertisers; whereas the Western markets have observed a rise in the digital content, traditional television has seen a decline.

In India even with the rise of digital, television still remains the primary source of entertainment, garnering the highest advertising revenues in the pie expecting the total advertising expenditure to touch `70,000 crore in 2019, up from `60,908 crore last year.

Further to the general perception of 90 percent of the Indian TV households (out of 197 million cable and satellite base) watching an average of 25 channels in a month, the average cost a consumer used to pay was more than `400 monthly to access 600+ channels available in a network, which led to the collection of ~`380 billion undeclared money from the ground every year by the last-mile operator.

Considering the consumers’ point and also giving the broadcasters the transparency that is needed, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) announced the New Tariff Order (NTO) to give consumers the liberty to cherry pick the channels of their choice and pay only for the same. In order to achieve the above, the broadcasters were banned from pricing the individual channels at prices higher than what they were being sold at as part of a pack, as in some cases it was found that the individual a-la carte prices of channels were 10 times higher than what that channel would cost, if purchased as part of a pack.

The average rate per user (ARPU) is expected to drop by 26 percent (~`208, pre-NTO to ~`164, post-NTO). The order will also bring more transparency in the system as the channels that were reaching 90 percent of the audiences pre-NTO and converting 40 percent of them on viewership will now have 100 percent conversion with people having a say in the channels’ selection.

Impact on measurement of viewership
Pre-NTO, the connectivity fluctuation of a given channel was stable at 15–20 percent on ground, which made viewership measurement much easier than the current scenario where the fluctuations are as high as 45–50 percent. There are multiple combos of packages being rolled out by the broadcasters, DPOs, and their variants – earlier which was an average of 5 packages has now moved to over 5000 combinations. Expecting a panel of 30,000 homes to represent a market with 197 million TV home across 22 languages and 5000-plus combinations of channel offtakes is unrealistic.

Any form of television measurement on the back of this finite sample (which in fact is less than 1 percent of the represented universe) is bound to fail in serving the primary objective of a purposeful representation. The 197 million C&S homes in India are choosing different channel packages, which is already having a huge impact on channels’ connectivity (pay channels dropped by 79 percent, FTA channels by 49 percent).

Impact on the rating system and a need to fix it
The current rating system does not take into account the connectivity of channels by packages while extrapolating viewership, thus leading to inaccurate representation of channels’ viewership.

Huge advertising revenues are planned on the basis of these viewership numbers making it all the more important to be accurate.

To avoid any such glitch and make the system more robust, the technology should have 100 percent tech integration (automation) with zero manual intervention right from data collection, post-auto-tuning the STB boxes, till the final churning of the report with second-by-second image capturing of live data consumption, including date/time and geo tag stamp. The panel base should factor all unique feeds/packages by market/strata with an equal dispersion of sampling across all NCCS groups.

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