Times Now’s ad revenue has grown even as ad volume has remained constant, said its Editorial Director and Editor-in-Chief Rahul Shivshankar, in a virtual interaction with trade media Monday, 5 December 2022.
He traced the news channel ratings controversy and noted that Times Now sensed that something was amiss, which was corroborated by news magazine Caravan’s in-depth story on the topic in 2018. “We would have thought ourselves wrong if the tampering hadn’t been exposed,” he said.
“We have never been against BARC as an organisation or rating agency. We have always thought of it to be a stakeholder organisation. We never had any problem with the methodology, we only had problems with an individual,” he added.
He presented a slice of the BARC viewership data pre and post the hiatus for the news genre.
“Today, you can see the system is clean, there are arrangements over how many meters there should be, the system is represented enough or not. I am talking about the process which has absolute clarity,” noted Shivshankar.
The journalist claimed that because of “the manipulation 2017-’19” (on ratings), Times Now took a revenue hit of Rs 400 crore. Despite which, he claimed that Times Now gets more ad revenue/FCT volume than other channels. “No one is going to put money on a channel at the rate the channel is demanding if it doesn’t have the numbers,” he stated.
Asked whether the channel has been able to command a premium post the return of BARC viewership ratings, he said, “We have more brands that advertise on Times Network than any other channels. We have never compromised on ad rates and for all I know, we are constantly fighting back to say, ‘Ek aur extra break le lo, Muje chaar minutes aur chahiye, aap ke show mein’ (Take another break, I need four more minutes of FCTs on your show). Where I say, ‘Aise chalega tho, news nahi chalegi, sirf aap ki ads chalegi’ (If this goes on, there will be no news, only ads will run).”
“Obviously we would be doing something right if our revenue numbers have gone up and the number of minutes available for advertisements have remained the same,” claimed Shivshankar.
Channels Pulling Out of BARC Ratings
On competing channels that pulled out of BARC, he cited the case of NDTV that voluntarily pulled out of BARC.
The editor observed: “I believe that they weren’t players in the rating game. Even after the clean up (of BARC), the company is doing better on digital, they are oriented towards being a digital-first company. They are ahead of all of us (on digital). Maybe TV news will die in five to six years; they are already making transitions. We are also trying to make those transitions.”
He added, “The channels that are moving out are the ones whether BARC was there or not, weren’t doing well. Even after the clean up in the BARC system, they didn’t emerge as channels that had ratings, they were not watched. They left because their businesses are in trouble; second is that as a product they are in transition.”