Larger sample size has a cost factor too, says Sunil Lulla; foresees Mahabharat between TV and OTT
GN Bureau | December 4, 2020
Countering the criticism of a minuscule sample size for TV audience measurement to gauge the viewership taste of a large Indian population, Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India CEO Sunil Lulla has said that only a drop of blood is enough to give test results of a person’s DNA and you do not need to five litres of blood for that.
“A drop of blood can give your whole DNA, for which I don’t need to pull five litres of blood out of your body. It’s a sample and a sample is the representation of the universe. It is supposed to be the projected estimate of how the universe behaves,” he said.
Lulla was in a webinar conversation with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, as part of the Visionary Talks series held by the public policy and governance analysis platform.
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He spoke on a range of issues including the audience measurement model, advertising, TV, and digital platforms. Defending the measurement system in place, he said that it is one of the largest samples in the world and built taking into consideration all the key factors that influence viewing. It is being certified by enough audit firms and statistical institutes both Indian and international. He also added that the stakeholders are not ready to pay for a larger sample size.
“At the end of the day, you want to do a sample which is a million homes instead of 50,000 homes. Somebody has to pay for it… We are a stakeholders’ body. Our stakeholders are not interested in paying for it… There may be individuals who have different opinions but the stakeholders are not interested in paying for a larger sample because it does not create for a better return or the economics. There is a percentage you pay for measurement of investment in your business. An advertiser who advertises Rs 5-10 crore on TV will only pay an X amount to the media agency or for measurement of its advertising. A broadcaster whose job is to gain audiences of a certain kind and get monetised for audiences will pay only an X amount for measurement… And what is the benefit for that? So the channel which may have a lower presence in any of the stake samples needs to appreciate the variability in their data,” he explained.
The media veteran asked who started the concepts ‘weekday’, ‘prime time’, manic, hyper-competition and why, and said that advertisers don’t behave like this. “In this time period when we are not releasing new data… volumes of advertising on news channels have only gone up….. advertisers are smart enough to know what channels to choose and what data to use.. and their partner agencies are extremely smart in making these choices. We should not discount this smartness. I believe the sample size we have today is right,” he reiterated.
“I am not averse to increasing the sample size by 100%.Let somebody pay for it and understand the benefits of it,” he said.
Lulla said that advertising stimulates demand and plays a very important role in the Indian economy. The US has a subscription-based market and advertising is 3% of GDP, while in India, he said, it is only about 0.4% , which is less than half of that in the US and still has got a long way to go. “A developed economy has 1% ratio between advertising and GDP. Advertising influences people.”
He further said that as custodians of the industry, we need to respect what the industry produces. Because many broadcasters are also players on digital screen, they may have on offer different services. Subscription alone on TV is very hard. “You need to monetise the screen smartly which everyone is watching. Advertising is part of building the Indian economy and will continue play a very strong role. If there is a goal to build a 5 trillion economy advertising will play a very pivotal role in creating consumption and demand. It is one of the levers which is going to get to the bet. Every day will not be like 2020. Consumption will increase.”
Speaking on advertising and revenues, Lulla said that when in March 2020 there was considerable amount of advertising, later, even though there was a peak in viewership there was a trough of advertising. That gap has never been seen before. Now the advertising volume is back (with large spends on hygiene, digital including gaming and education) and higher as compared to last year, but advertising values will take some time to get back to original levels.
Giving his views on subscription-based services and content with ads, he said that the Indian market will have a market for both. “Subscription-based services may reach out to 25 million people but for 75% of India, the masses, content with ads is the only way to inform, educate, share and entertain, share and educate. We have headroom to grow,” said Lulla.
On digital advertising, he said that in 2020 digital advertising has overtaken TV advertising in the US and the same is likely to be the case in India before 2030 as it is already growing at a fast pace here. “It is a question of the quality of service, the economic situation and how people choose to access their phones… It’s about screen time. There will be a growth in advertising, in digital advertising in very big numbers in the next few years,” he said.
The TV medium, Lulla observed, is sustaining and not dropping. “TV is still the best medium [for] a mass campaign across Indian households and if it continues to attract certain sizeable niches, TV will sustain itself. While YouTube is an ocean, curated content and OTT will take time to grow that factor. The content of TV has to change to take on the battle of digital. There will be Mahabharat between TV and OTT.”
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