Since the beginning, most TV channels have paid to be present as a favorite channel by placement, by paying postage or by paying to be on landing pages.
In the good old days when set-top boxes didn’t exist, cable networks kept channels stacked according to frequency (VHF/UHF, etc.) because most available TVs couldn’t play more than a handful of channels .
The most preferred channels were set to low frequency and the least preferred to high frequency, as it depended on the type of televisions one had. Audience preference of TV channels could be controlled by cable operators due to their stacking. At that time, television stations paid cable operators so that their channels could be broadcast in a basket of preferred frequencies, generate viewership and get a share of the advertising money.
Gradually, due to government regulations, all cable homes converted to SRD with cable box or HH cable with cable box. This number has increased to approx. 210 million households with TV access, according to BARC baseline study.
Currently, among DTH operators (total 107/210 million), Paid DTH is about 67 million households and FTA (DD Free Dish) is about 40 million households. Both of these DTH networks charge carriage fees to TV networks. It becomes an expensive proposition for a channel to launch a new channel and be “visible” in the DTH networks which mainly control the larger metros and rural HHs. Besides postage, DTH players sell their homepage to advertisers, home shopping networks, brand advertising, TV channel program promotions, etc.
Cable operators’ MSOs (103/210 million) are split into 46 million among large MSOs and several small MSOs, with cable operators adding 57 million households. Both of these MSO networks sell their homepage or landing page to a TV network, usually on a long-term basis. TV landing pages are basically a “home page” where a viewer lands when they turn on the TV. Due to the overwhelming demand from TV networks, some MSOs even sell the 2nd landing page to buyers who want to stream the live stream on the 2nd landing pages.
The landing page gives viewers the opportunity to sample a channel that they would not have sampled, given their own preferences. This means that the channel that paid to be on the landing page will get the default audience. After recording the “audience” on this default “channel” for a while, you can switch to the channel of your preference. BARC would consider this “default live stream” on the “landing page” as a “seen” channel.
If the cable company turns the power on and off several times during the day, the channel that paid to be part of the “landing page” will record the “audience” throughout the day, several times. This focus, if covered by the BARC panel, will display a forced “hearing”, but it will go unnoticed. Therefore, paying for the landing page will ensure that your channel not only gets sampled, but also gradually becomes the channel of choice!
Currently, BARC does not capture this phenomenon. Their system cannot detect it automatically, because the channel, which paid to be a default channel, somehow bypasses the system.
Approx. 57 million households controlled by small MSOs where manipulation of landing pages is done at a relatively cheaper cost since large corporate conglomerates are not involved. This works best for channels where even a small change in viewership will have a huge impact on the channel’s overall ranking. For example, information networks.
For a larger change in audience, larger MSOs can be used, but at a very high cost in double-digit crores.
What option does this leave for other new news channels, especially those that want a fair share of advertisers’ revenue based on good quality content? What option does it leave to the new small television channels, those with a low audience and therefore low income?
Ultimately, as BARC, we have a robust currency that is constantly improving. BARC will hopefully take note of this gimmick and call channels that use this feature. Doing so will level the playing field and viewer-advertisers can be the best judge based on content audience to take a call on what to watch and where to invest money.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and in no way represent the opinions of exchange4media.com