Explainer: How TRPs Work

With the alleged manipulation of the television rating points of three channels, including Republic TV, coming under Mumbai police's scanner, a look at how TRPs work and the ways in which manipulation is possible.

Jaipur: Following a complaint filed by Hansa Research Group Private Limited, the company which installs and maintains the Bar-O-Meter responsible for tracking television rating points (TRPs), the Mumbai police on Thursday accused two Marathi channels – Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema – along with Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV of rigging TRPs.

So far, the owners of the two Marathi channels and a former employee of the Hansa Research Group have been arrested.

While the FIR had mentioned India Today, and not Republic TV, among the channels involved in rigging of TRPs, the Mumbai police said that the witnesses and accused have named Republic TV.

“In the FIR, the name of India Today is mentioned, however, it is not substantiated by any of the accused or witnesses. On the contrary, the accused and witnesses are specifically mentioning the names of Republic TV, Fakt Marathi and Box Cinema. Thorough investigations are going on,” said joint commissioner Milind Bharambe.

As the name of Republic TV cropped up in the case, right-wing website ‘OpIndia’ and Goswami himself claimed that the FIR had named India Today but action is being sought against Republic TV because it had questioned the police in the Sushant Singh Rajput case.

What is TRP?

TRP is a type of audience measurement data which shows the amount of time (represented in terms of minutes) people of different socio-economic categories spend watching a particular channel. It is released every week.

What role TRPs play in advertising?

TRPs are primarily useful for advertisers. It tells them which channel and programme people are viewing the most, and thereby helps determine which channel and slot they should choose to display their advertisements.

TRPs are also important for broadcasters to aid in determining if their content is achieving optimal viewership. With poor TRP rating, a broadcaster can alter its content. A good TRP rating gives the broadcasters an upper hand in deciding the advertisement charges and make massive profit.

A 2020 FICCI-EY report on India’s media and entertainment industry showed that the size of the TV industry grew from Rs 74,000 crore in 2018 to INR 78,800 crore in 2019 – a growth of 6.5%.

Also read: The ‘TRP Scam’ Could Open the Doors for the Government to Enter the Picture

What is the procedure to calculate TRP?

The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), a designated television ratings agency registered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, has installed BAR-O-Meters in over 45,000 households, classified into 12 categories, covering over 80 crore people.

This classification is based on the New Consumer Classification System (NCCS), and includes two variables: educational qualification and access to consumer durables such as electricity connection.

It is crucial that the selected households are representative of different age and socio-economic groups of the country.

All the members of these empanelled households are given separate viewer IDs, which helps them register their presence.

When they watch television, they are required to put on their viewer ID button, so that the duration for which the channel was watched could be captured.

“On an average, one meter projects ratings for over 20,000 viewers. English news is switched on in about 1.1% of homes with meters which means that only about 440-450 meters are watching English news 8 minutes per day,” tweeted columnist Aunindyo Chakravarty.

Can TRPs be rigged?

Since the calculation of TRP is dependent on the habits and leanings of the members of 45,000 households, therefore, the TRPs, in the first instance, are not representative of the actual popularity of any show or channel.

However, if the broadcasters could identify these empanelled households and influence them by any fraudulent means, the TRPs would be rigged.

Chakravarty, posted a thread on Twitter explaining the ways in which the broadcasters can influence the TRPs.

“It’s been revealed many times in the past that the identities of such empanelled households get leaked every now and then. So, a crooked channel could go to five homes in a slum area, give them a brand new flat-screen TV and tell them to watch whatever they want,” said Chakravarty.

He added that the households could be bribed to watch a particular channel on their existing television set to which the meter is connected.

He said it would be beneficial to English news channels as they are being watched for just 8 minutes per head per day.

“Imagine what four meter-homes watching for even one hour will do to the ratings of an English news channel. Their TRP will go up by six-seven times, giving them a massive advantage over others,” he said.

In a statement, BARC has said that it “remains steadfastly true to its purpose to accurately and faithfully report ‘what India watches’.”

“As in all our previous cases of suspected panel homes intrusions, BARC India continues to follow its established vigilance and disciplinary guidelines. BARC India appreciates the efforts of the Mumbai Police and will provide the support asked of it. BARC’s board-appointed disciplinary committee has a stringent and robust disciplinary process in place for any errant intervention,” said BARC India spokesperson.