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BARC attempts the impossible with new digital ratings tools

Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), India, has released a new suit of audience measurement tools. BARC is an industry-backed realtime television ratings point measuring agency. Bundled under EKAM (one in Sanskrit), the industry based measurement-body, has for the first time also released a digital measurement tool.

The new tools include:

  1. EKAM Pulse: Which will measure the performance of digital video ad campaigns,
  2. EKAM Beam: To measure linear broadcast that is viewed on a Digital device,
  3. EKAM Stream: To measure the performance of non-linear and digital video content,
  4. EKAM Ad-Scan: Which will give an overview of digital ads in India, look at where the advertising money is being spent and which sectors are producing more digital ads, and
  5. EKAM Integra: A common audience number that will give more accurate incremental reach figures across linear TV and the Internet,

Audience measurement in India

Audience measurement across India is riddled with controversies and disagreements among stakeholders. BARC came as a replacement for Television Audience Measurement (TAM) in 2014. For nearly a decade-and-a-half TAM was the only audience audit and research methodology in India. TAM was a joint venture initiated by Nielsen (India) Private Limited and Kantar Market Research 1998.

With the boom in television industry, TAM came under increasing pressure for its numbers. Most broadcasters withdrew from TAM in 2015 for having only 12,000 meters across the country measuring television consumption pattern and basing television ratings based on the same.

BARC was constituted in 2015 and was backed by the Indian Broadcasters Foundation,  the Advertising Agencies Association of India and the Indian Society of Advertisers. In less than two months thereafter, BARC created the world’s largest viewership measurement system, involving 34,000 panel homes. Come 2016, the BARC bought TAM’s meters and formed a joint venture called Meterology Data Pvt Ltd. Following this TAM exited the TV viewership measurement business in India in February 2016.

BARC’s digital measurement

BARC said that its intent through its foray into digital measurement, is to measure total unduplicated audiences across all devices and platforms, measuring combined program impressions or advertisements regardless of where and how content or ad is being consumed.

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For the Internet (and Mobile), they’re looking to measure: ad breaks in live streams, pre-roll and mid-roll videos, and targeted/addressable advertising linked to the content on broadcaster sites or social media or any other website/apps.”

With the new suit of tools, BARC is now entering into the digital arena and setting up an ambitious and never attempted task for itself. In December 2015, BARC had issued a “Request for Information” with the intent of monitoring audience across media, including the Internet and mobile.

We had then noted: It will be impossible to measure the universe of online video, considering the distributed nature of the Internet. What will be possible, however, is measurement via tie-ups with specific content creators on specific platforms.

Attempting the impossible

Different platforms measure views and impressions differently–YouTube counts a view if a video is requested and played for 30s; Facebook and Twitter, on the other hand, measure 3s as a view (note that both the platforms run auto-play videos on their newsfeed and often these videos aren’t user requested); Snapchat counts a view the moment a snap is opened; and there are no such metrics for cross-platform apps such as Whatsapp, Telegram, Viber, etc.

Digital audience data is platfrom-dependant. With the new suit of measurement tools, BARC has embarked on an never attempted task of gathering cross-platform data for an entire industry. How BARC intends to standardise and measure such diverse and different data cross-platforms data is yet to be seen. Although the EKAM suit was announced today, the details on metrics and measurement methodology are yet to be made public.

Update: We sent five questions to BARC, of which they answered two. BARC claims that the remaining questions can only be answered after the product is rolled out. Currently, only the product logo and basic idea have been put forth, partnerships and details on metrics are still being discussed, the ratings agency claims.

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1. What are the data points that EKAM Pulse will be looking at?
2. How will cross-platform data be standardised, considering every platform measures a view and an impression differently
3. How will this data be made comparable to television ratings or cross-platform campaigns?
4. How often will this data be updated?
5. What is the methodology and technology behind EKAM Pulse?
The two questions that were answered are:

2. How will cross-platform data be standardised, considering every platform measures a view and an impression differently

All platforms going forward will use the same definitions and standards as defined by BARC India with the help of its Digital Technical Committee. It is BARC India’s methodologies that will determine the true measure of viewability and not what the platforms are using today for their own measurement.

5. What is the methodology and technology behind EKAM Pulse?

We will be using Single-Source Panel, large TV and Digital Booster panels, Census level data and Big Data to get accurate demographic of digital users. All this will help ensure accuracy of audience profiling and fusion for TV + Digital.

Corrigendum: The earlier piece said that BARC and TAM merged in 2016. The error is regretted. Corrections have been made in the copy. 

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