TV ratings: How they work and what they mean

  • Kavita Awaasthi, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Apr 09, 2015 12:10 IST

For the most part, the popularity of a TV show is judged on the basis of the Television Rating Points (TRP) it garners. This data, compiled by an agency called TAM Media Research, has been the official ratings system in the TV industry for a while. But now, things are set to change.

From April end reportedly, the TRPs released by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) will be considered the official ratings. While TAM will continue to release data, the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), The Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA) and the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) have issued a directive asking all major Indian broadcasters to switch to BARC. However, because BARC is yet to start collecting data to release TRPs for the month of April, the TV industry is witnessing a blackout of sorts with regards to the ratings during this phase.

Issues with TAM
The move to make BARC the official body for TRPs has been welcomed by the industry; this is mainly because, time and again, fingers have been pointed at the data provided by TAM in India. In 2012, when a news broadcaster challenged the authenticity of TAM ratings in court, the agency’s ratings were boycotted by the industry for nine weeks. Soon after, a joint broadcasting industry body, BARC, was formed, and made in charge of coming up with a new audience measurement system for TV.

For a while now, the industry has been vying for a fair system of data collection. TAM had been promising this for a while, but has not been able to deliver the same. While TAM has 12,200 Peoplemeters all over India, BARC plans to double the number in the first phase, and continue to increase them in the future. The sampling will be wider as will the variety of categories.

How ratings Are measured
Ratings are the percentage of a given population group consuming a medium at a particular moment.
TAM is the specialised branch of media research in India, dedicated to quantifying (size) and qualifying (characteristics) this detailed TV audience information and has been measuring digital TV since 2007.
TAM India’s panel has 12,200 Peoplemeters (a device that keeps track of who is watching what, and when on TV) covering 11,000 TV homes in 225 cities and towns across the country.

"The industry is in support of this movement. BARC is well-connected with several politicians, which also helped it get this push," the source says.

Producer Rajan Shahi says, "We have been informed by the channel that there will be no TRPs for the next few weeks, and a new system will come into place. Nevertheless, we will continue to give our shows our best no matter what system is in place."

Other ‘ratings’
An industry source reveals that in the absence of ratings, there are certain other parameters that can be used to judge the performances of TV shows. "For instance, broadcasters look at the performance of a show in the past four weeks to gauge its future," says the source.

On the other hand, TV producer Sudhir Sharma feels that this phase is ideal for the industry as the focus now is purely on the story. "Now we can focus on the show’s story, rather than worry about increasing the ratings."

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