A few days back, one of the leading broadcasters in the country Zee Media has quit from Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) ratings.
In an official statement Zee Media alleged that in the last few months the news genre is being shown shrunk by the BARC to extend the benefit to GEC and other genres at large.
The exit by Zee Media has brought in the debate over the usage of landing pages as a marketing tool by the broadcasters.
What is the landing page issue?
A landing channel in terms of Television is the channel that appears on the TV screen when a viewer switches on the set top box.
Interestingly, as per empirical evidence, 90% of viewers in India do not switch off their set top box, but only the television set when they are done with their viewing. For such users, switching on the television will display the last viewed channel and not the landing channel.
In approximately 95% of the cases, when a viewer switches on the set top box and the landing channel appears, they are free to switch to any channel of choice at the simple click of a remote.
In the small balance, the channel may be frozen on screen for about 15-30 seconds after which the user is free to shift to any channel.
Viewership impact in such cases is however not registered since BARC considers reach only if the viewer sees the channel for a minimum of 1 minute.
Only compelling content will tempt a user to stay on the channel and register viewership. Hence, landing channels aid only in sampling and do not curtail viewer choice at all.
As far as the advertisers are concerned, they only stand to benefit by the additional audiences, if any, as all the viewership is authentic human beings watching the channel. However, the problem which hurts all three constituents of the advertising ecosystem; Advertisers, Ad Agencies and Broadcasters is panel tampering where some rogue broadcasters artificially induce panel homes to watch a particular channel for inordinate length of time.
This results in time spent going off the charts and not reaching. In such cases the panel homes are provided with fancy TVs for actual viewing at home and old ones are connected to Barometers and tuned to only one particular channel.
What do the industry watchers say?
“Landing pages are a fair marketing tool for use by the broadcasters. For instance, we want to launch a shampoo brand today with an objective to compete in the market. To compete with the major players, what would we do? If the marketing has to be done, probably we will take the front page in Times of India. Also, need to pay Google for SEO optimization. I have to go to all retailers and direct channel players, so that, on the shelf space the product is available. If these practices are legal, the landing pages are also legal,” says Media and entertainment consultant and media distribution veteran, Anuj Gandhi while speaking to medianews4u.com on the landing page issue.
While clarifying the narrative around landing page issue at Nation Wants to Know with Rahul Shivashankar and Navika Kumar, MK Anand, MD& CEO, Times Now said, “Landing pages are bonafide methods of marketing. Every product you purchase has some element of promotion in it. Do we need disclaimers to know that the toothpaste we use has been promoted? Landing pages provide the viewer with a window to watch when he puts on the set-top box. It does not automatically convert to viewership unless the viewer has spent more than a minute on the channel. This means the content has to be compelling enough. Imagine you put your TV set on and a blank screen comes on and you have the remote in your hand. Would you keep watching the screen for one whole minute or more?”
Paritosh Joshi, Principal- Provocateur Advisory in a recent interaction with Medianews4u.com on the landing page issue said, “There is no point in discussing whether landing pages is a fair or unfair practice, the only question that can be raised is whether it is legal or illegal. If you systematically try to remove access to competitive products or you try to monopolize in any way, one can say that fairness is affected and remedies for those exist as well. I believe the landing page issue doesn’t have much to do with fairness. I think the issue we are effectively saying is that through the appropriate landing pages, broadcasters are getting the opportunities to place their product before the consumer and their argument is very simple, we don’t have enough sampling and we would like people to sample our products. Just in the same way as in a grocery store or supermarket, somebody would pay for the display space, this is the same thing,”
“This is not a new argument in India, by the way, around 16-17 years ago, the idea that people would pay to be present on a cable operator’s network, paying carriage fee started in India, when we were an analogue country. It wasn’t a paid service initially. Broadcasters started paying as some of them felt that by doing so, they could occupy a position where they could stay inside the bundle instead of outside. This is the history of broadcasters trying to be visible in a competitive environment. During those times, it was a battle for just being viewable in the tunable frequency in the consumer’s home.
Today the question is will someone view my channel if the channel number is 160 or will they go looking for it or should I buy landing pages, so that they see it every time they turn on their set top boxes. if there is no law which has been broken in the process, then there ought to be no issue with that,” Joshi adds.
“All of these broadcasters fundamentally want to be profitable. The way they are looking at it is, if the landing pages are helping them to increase the revenue, hopefully the profile will also be increased eventually. Even if it comes at a high cost, maybe that will make the consumers appreciate the channel. This is not sustainable, though, unless it causes a permanent change in viewing behaviour. The real issue is elsewhere; with the highly regulated system of pricing and tariffs,” concludes Joshi.