Citizens' Issues
Public Interest Exclusive
TV channels hoodwink readers with misleading advertisements about themselves

In a bid to outdo each other, channels window-dress their advertisements thereby artificially boosting their TRPs which are totally misleading.

Media channels come out with anything to make their numbers and brands look good. They advertise to the hilt, blow their own trumpets, and in the process manipulate the audience and consumers to thinking that they’re the best in business. Moneylife has thrown light on how media companies have window-dressed their recent advertisements, most notably on Budget Day and Election Day, to show higher TRPs, which is totally misleading.

Consider the following cases which Moneylife had analysed:

Times Now had proclaimed to be “Number 1” TV channel after ‘impressive’ TRP numbers it had witnessed on the budget day. The advertisement showed a graph of its viewership statistics and compared itself with its nearest competitors—CNN IBN and NDTV 24x7. Check ad below:



Using TAM ratings methodology, it showed a viewership of 32%, between 11am and 1pm, on Budget day, ahead of its competitors CNN IBN (17%) and NDTV 24x7 (25%). Similarly, during prime time (i.e. 8pm to 10:30pm), it had a 32% viewership share, far ahead of CNN-IBN (7%) and NDTV 24x7 (28%). Strangely, it has excluded other TV channels like Doordarshan and Headlines Today. Why?

“Corporate India chose BloombergUTV when it really mattered” is what the BloombergUTV advertisement chanted, insisting that it was the most watched channel on Budget day. Here, they used a different metric—a time period between 7pm and midnight was chosen; it included only eight metros and the entire state of Gujarat. It is perplexing to figure out why have they have chosen only Gujarat state. Anyway, BloombergUTV claims to have a 40% viewership share over NDTV Profit, CNBC TV18 and ET Now. Check the ad below. Again, TAM ratings were used here.



If you thought two channels were already “number 1”, you were wrong. CNBC-TV18 also proclaimed its right to the throne by declaring a whopping 79% market share on Budget day. The metrics used here was far different from the first two. It elongated the time period to include almost the whole day—from 6am till midnight—while at the same time it enlarged the geographic boundaries to include the entire country.



The Budget wasn’t the only platform which the media channels sought to assert their ‘supremacy’. During the Election Day (counting of votes) in the states of UP, Goa, Manipur, Punjab and Uttarakhand, both Times Now and NDTV 24x7 came out with respective ads showing off misleading TRPs.

Let us look into them:

Times Now asserted that it had 39% market share during the full day on Election Day and 49% market share during prime time between 7pm and 11pm. Do you notice anything perculiar? Times Now has two definitions of prime time—one is between 7pm and 11pm in this case, and between 8pm to 10:30pm in case of Budget Day. It is clear from this finding that the channel has conveniently tweaked its own definition of primetime to boost its own numbers.



NDTV, on the other hand, proclaimed 51% market share over CNN-IBN, Times Now, Headlines Today and, surprise (!), Doordarshan. However, NDTV used a different metric to arrive at its own figure. It polled 11 cities (it did not mentioned which cities), with a sample size of over 5000 people. It did not take its figures from TAM. Why? Perhaps its TAM ratings were abysmal?



So what do we learn from this?

1)    Media companies will take a restricted sample size or a bigger sample size, depending on where they score better figures. NDTV conducted a poll and did not reply on TAM figures.
2)    Media companies can exclude competitors from the advertisement, if they wish to. For instance, Times Now did not include Doordarshan and Headlines Today to compare its budget or election numbers.
3)    The time period can be manipulated to which numbers throw impressive results. For instance, CNBC maybe the most watched channel between 4pm and 5pm but for all intents and purposes it could have been the least watched channel during “prime time”. Similarly, Bloomberg may have boosted its numbers from a including the state of Gujarat in addition to the eight other (unknown) metro cities.

Media companies will select their own sample size, geographic boundaries as well as time periods to make their TRP numbers look good. This way, consumers will focus on the graph and juicy information while skipping how advertisers come up with such artificial numbers. The bottomline is that when media companies publish these sorts of advertisements, it is best to ignore them because the numbers are meaningless when each use their own criteria.

User

COMMENTS

Nagesh Kini FCA

5 years ago

How reliable are the numbers?
There is enough of blowing of their own trumpets to increase the eye balls.
I've been watching practically all the major channels on Budget Day. Nothing great. Each 'expert' churning out the same stuff year after all. Some channel hopping to get into public glare.

Parijat Bose

5 years ago

Well the media market has become so competitive as well as polarized that to establish one's own viewership, media houses project such rosy figures to enhance viewership and invite more and more advertising revenue.

Deepak R Khemani

5 years ago

The other problem is the way the Word "Exclusive" is used for every story, after the budget EVERY Channel has an exclusive interview with the FM!
Every channel had an exclusive with Anna Hazare the day he broke his fast,

Every channel has an exclusive with the RBI Governor when he announces the credit policy!
Even on budget day all the so called experts were shifting between channels, finally you had their same views on the budget being repeated on every Business channel!

Guest

5 years ago

And so are the various award functions, be they be for Mutual Funds or Bollywood or any other.

Now you know how Satyam was given the best corporate governance award?

One with the best and the most should be avoided

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