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TRPs – What are they and why they matter to the Television news industry

Most viewers of TV are familiar with the term TRPs, but what exactly are they and why do they matter?

Put simply, TRP or Television Rating Point is a method or tool to gauge the popularity of a particular television programme or channel. It gives viewers a sense of which channel is being watched more, just like newspaper readership circulation figures give an idea of which dailies are more popular.

Just like papers with greater circulation attract more advertisers, TPRs are also important for advertisers who back a channel with their money. So a higher TRP rating means a higher return of investment for an advertiser, including clients who advertise on news channels.

With this in mind, let’s take a deeper dive into TRPs and the business model of the TV news industry.

Higher TRPs means more advertising revenue, which is the primary source of income for a majority of TV channels. 

How is TRP calculated?

TRPs are monitored by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), a professional body that includes members from the Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), the Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF) and the Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA).

BARC has installed “BAR-O-meters” in approximately 45,000 households, which are classified into 12 categories based on criteria such as education levels, ownership of consumer durables, car ownership, etc.

In order to register their presence, members of the empanelled households press their unique ID button. This captures who in the family is watching which channel and for how long, thus providing the BARC with viewership data on a range of parameters. Before the video broadcast, audio watermarks are embedded in the content. Not audible to the human ear, these watermarks can however be detected using specialised technology. 

What if the TRP data are fudged?

If the TRP data is fudged or falsified – through whatever means – viewers won’t have an accurate idea of which channel is most popular in a particular genre such as news. But from the revenue point of view, this is even more troubling, because advertisers are being taken for a ride as they are investing crores of rupees on a channel or a particular slot (say 8pm or 9pm show) on basis of the TRP data.

Which means that the advertiser is not getting a fair return on investment. It also creates a cycle of fraudulent behaviour which is harmful to the entire ecosystem as more and more advertisers invest their money on a channel thinking it is the most popular one.

If the 45,000 empanelled households are somehow targeted to falsify viewer data, the TRPs can get compromised.

According to a consultation paper by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, television audience measurement is the basis on which ratings are assigned to TV programmes. “Television ratings in turn influence programmes produced for the viewers. Better ratings would promote a programme while poor ratings will discourage a programme,” the paper said. “Incorrect ratings will lead to production of programmes which may not be really popular while good programmes may be left out.”

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News is information about current events. News is provided through many different media: word of mouth, printing, postal systems, broadcasting, electronic communication, and also on the testimony of observers and witnesses to events. It is also used as a platform to manufacture opinion for the population.

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