Nakul Chopra has been named the CEO of the Television Audience measurement body, Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). A marketing and media veteran of nearly four decades, Chopra brings a rich repertoire of experience in financial & general management, process management, and navigating the corporate legal environment. He would be taking charge of the office with effect from August 25th as Sunil Lulla has resigned his remit to pursue his ambition as an entrepreneur.
Chopra’s appointment comes at a time when BARC is under fire for the transparency of the rating system. In October 2020, several TV news channels were accused of tampering with the TRPs by the Mumbai Police. Following a series of events, Partho Dasgupta, former Chief Executive Officer of BARC, was arrested. The prosecution alleged that Romil Ramgadia, Chief Operating Officer of BARC, played a vital role in “manipulating TRP”. Outgoing CEO Sunil Lulla was unable to address these issues as most of his tenure went on towards braving the storm of the TRP scam. His sudden exit also made the industry raise its eyebrow. Even Lulla’s regime faced severe accusations from many news broadcasters that include open letters, legal notices, and even court cases. With all these factors greet the new CEO, his role is definitely not going to be a cakewalk, instead, a thorny path to brave through.
The broadcasters and the industry expect the new BARC CEO to release the news channel viewership data which has been withheld for around 10 months after the fake TRP controversy. The industry unanimously seeks transparency in the rating system.
“We are witnessing a paradigm shift in the media industry and to set the right course –credible leadership is the need of the hour. Chopra has been associated with BARC for almost six years now, and he, therefore, understands the ecosystem and the challenges thereof. After the TRP controversy, the credibility of the measurement system had come into question. I am hopeful that BARC India will be able to regain the lost trust of all stakeholders and will be laser-focused on ensuring transparency and credibility,” said Avinash Pandey, CEO – ABP Network.
According to a senior Broadcast Media executive, BARC India is collecting around Rs 8 Crore per month from News Broadcasters without sharing any viewership data.
“Even if we assume a nominal fee of Rs 2 Lakhs per month per channel. Roughly 400 channels in India will tally the figure of Rs 8 Crore. The prime focus of the new CEO should be to launch viewership data for News Channels and regaining the fidelity of BARC data. They should also look into increasing the volume of people meters as per the plans,” he said.
He further added, “BARC should explore opportunities to partner with DTH and MSO operators for implementing RPD (Return Path Data). They should also formulate some technology in which Set-top boxes can be used for collecting viewership data.”
R Jai Krishna, Secretary-General, News Broadcasters Federation (NBF), hopes that Chopra would take decisions rationally.
“We at NBF hope Nakul Chopra would take decisions very rationally, without fear or four keeping the strategic importance of news broadcasters’ in the overall economy. BARC has to resume the release of TRP data of the News genre data at the earliest,” Krishna added.
“The news channel ratings have been withheld for around 10 months, and it is a very tough period for news channels. What saved the Southern broadcasters this year was the Assembly elections in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Puducherry. The news channels ratings are a must, and We would like to have a fair and ‘transparent’ rating system to be in place as soon as possible,” said Shankar Bala, CEO, Fourth Dimension Media Solutions.
“BARC has not been able to assure us of its ability to control and bring to book unscrupulous elements who have apparently infiltrated their systems and tampered our channel’s viewership numbers in the last few years as per their own Audit Report. Our current ongoing efforts to resolve this have been unsuccessful. Since Nakul has been associated with BARC as its Board member and Chairman during this same period, we hope his intimate knowledge of the events and internal workings, his patience, and perseverance will be committed to creating a transparent system that everyone can trust sooner. We wish Nakul the best and look forward to resolving outstanding issues”, said MK Anand, MD & CEO, Times Network.
Speaking about the challenges to be faced by the new CEO, Pandey said, “In the recent past, both audiences and advertisers had been apprehensive about television ratings, especially on news channels. Various issues, whether with regard to the ‘average time Spent (ATS)’ variable, high-granularity, high-frequency ratings, or the lack of transparency within the measurement system – have raised significant concerns from an industry standpoint. Plus, GECs and news channels cannot be measured on the same scale, which is something that the measurement system needs to work upon. However, I trust that with his able leadership, Mr. Chopra will be able to efficiently mitigate these challenges and create a tamper-proof system of audience measurement.”
Shankar has also had a similar opinion, he said, “The entire rating system by BARC is being questioned for its transparency. It would be the responsibility of the new CEO to remove that and ensure that the rating system is here to stay. He should be able to gain back the trust of advertisers and broadcasters in the rating system.”
According to Anil Ayroor, Group COO, Flowers & 24, the trust and transparency of broadcasters and advertisers in BARC is slowly fading away.
“In my opinion, the prime responsibility of the new CEO should be to gain the trust back. Coming into expectations, BARC should look into introducing new scientific methods for the rating system in the digital era, which will reduce unhealthy competition among the broadcasters. The news channel rating should be brought back. At the same time, they should address the controversy related and bring in a clear picture on how they have rectified it,” Anil added.
Unnikrishnan BK, Vice President Sales at Asianet News Network, requires clarity on when news channel ratings will be published.
“Clarity on whether it would be as the regular weekly basis or proposed monthly basis. Clarity on whether we would get the data of the weeks that were withheld,” he added.
As Chopra’s profile reads, “He is particularly proficient in hands-on problem solving, adept in leading businesses and is a trusted advisor to captains of the industry”, we hope that he will be able to tackle and bring solutions and clarity to the rating systems and address concerns of broadcasters and advertisers democratically.