08 December 2015 15:45:33 IST

All about television ratings

Though based on a relatively small sample, TV ratings are a crucial yardstick for advertisers

Saath Nibhaana Saathiya , Kumkum Bhagya and Ye Hai Mohabbatein … do these names sound familiar? If not, then you probably don’t know the pulse of the Indian TV audience, for these are the most-watched Hindi TV programmes. For the Tamil-speaking audience, it’s Deiva Magal and Vamsam on Sun TV, while Bengalis tune into STAR Jalsha’s Kiranmala and Bojhena Shey Bojhena .

We know this from the weekly TV ratings released by the Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC). Until, a few months ago, TV ratings were issued only by TAM India, the TV audience measurement joint venture between Nielsen and Kantar.

TV Ratings are the single most important factor that helps companies determine what channels to place their ads in and during what time slots. This is because a higher rating for a channel indicates its wider reach, which is exactly what companies look for while advertising their products. Of course, it goes without saying that companies have to pay more for advertising on the more popular channels, particularly during prime time.

So how are TV ratings calculated?

The methodology

While there is no single standard methodology to arrive at the ratings, let’s take a look at how BARC goes about it. It provides weekly rankings (based on the ratings) for the most popular channels across all genres and also within each individual genre such as entertainment, news and movies. It also comes out with a ranking of the most watched serials under every genre.

The ratings are calculated using data collected from a sample of TV viewing households (a minimum of 20,000). Seventy per cent of the households chosen are urban, and the rest are rural.

Data-tracking meters, that have a SIM embedded in them to capture what is watched, are placed in the sample households. They capture both household and individual-level data. In households where individual-specific data is being monitored, separate remotes are given to every family member so that their behaviour can be recorded.

The authenticity of the data obtained by the meters is ensured by the presence of what are called audio watermarks. Normally, an audio watermark, which is an electronic identifier code, is embedded into the TV content before it is broadcast. This watermark, which lends a unique identity to the content (the channels and the programmes) is broadcast along with the content as we watch it on TV. As the viewing details are captured by the meters, so are the watermarks and if they are removed or tampered with in any way, the content too gets affected.

Getting rated

The meters essentially capture three kinds of data — what was watched, who watched (reach) and when and for how long was it watched (time spent). This is used to calculate the daily ratings from Saturday to Friday. The formula is Rating = Reach (number of viewers in 1,000s) x (time spent watching, in minutes/1,440, which is the total number of minutes in a day). An average is taken of the daily ratings to arrive at the weekly rating. The findings from the chosen sample are then extrapolated to arrive at the rating for the entire TV viewing universe for the country.

Do not, however, confuse these ratings with the more familiar TRPs, or Television Rating Points. While the ratings discussed above take into account the absolute number of households, the TRPs are in terms of the percentage of households.

However, given that India has over 153 million TV homes, ratings or TRPs based on a sample of 20,000 households can only be taken with a pinch of salt, as must any sample-based data. But, the importance of these ratings can hardly be overemphasised, given advertisers’ dependence on them in deciding which channels to place ads with.

Going forward

While at the moment, both BARC and TAM India are releasing TV ratings, this is set to change soon. As announced in August, both BARC and TAM India will form a meter management company to jointly operate the meters currently being used by them to track viewership data. The TAM India meters will be redeployed in accordance with BARC’s planned expansion of its current sample of households. The data from these meters will then be supplied to BARC, which will become the sole agency providing TV ratings.