No, we are not talking about some Google campaign here. Landing page, for the broadcast industry, is nothing but the first channel that appears when a viewer switches on the TV through the set top box. As per Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the landing page refers to the Logical Channel Number (LCN) which is displayed first when the Set Top Box (STB) is switched on. The broadcast industry use this landing page for multiple genres but it is the news channels that take the biggest chunk in using it to gain an upper hand from the competition. All cable or DTH operators have a landing page which is their exclusive property and broadcasters pay them a hefty amount to be on their landing page so that their channel is the default channel that is viewed when the TV is switched on using the set top box.
So is landing page really a tool for assessment of viewership or more of a marketing gimmick for advertisers? To know more, we asked about the landing page debate to well-known names from the advertising media fraternity. Navin Lalchandani, SVP – National Buying at Starcom says, “The landing page gives viewers an opportunity to sample a channel that they wouldn't have sampled, and resulting the channel to get default viewership. Ideally there should a method to report this separately. Otherwise with this method, paying for landing page will ensure that not only your channel is sampled but becomes the choice.” On the other hand, B. Sridhar, Group Director of Innocean Worldwide Communications Pvt. Ltd. explains, “It is principally unethical to artificially boost viewership wherein the viewer has not made the choice. While many media professionals can judge the difference when viewership is boosted by such methods, but the ones not so savvy may not be able to do so. It is thus that channels are trying to take undue advantage. As of now there is nothing illegal about paying to be the first exposed media channel to boost viewership, bur this can’t be allowed to sustain itself.” Navin Kathuria, EVP, DDB Mudramax has a more neutral point of view and feels the issue is just exaggerated. He further shares a detailed explanation, “As per my view this debate should actually not exist in the first place. Let’s give a quantitative perspective to the same – consider Hindi Speaking markets and Hindi News channels. The total Hindi News genre (approx. 50 odd channels monitored by BARC) is around an average of 100-120 weekly GRPs (based on whether there is some event / breaking news in a particular week) and this is calculated basis a 24 hour day divided into 30 min timeslots for 7 days – this means 100-120 GRPs for 336 timeslots for 50 odd channels – amounting to an average of 0.3 TVR for a 30 min slot for 50 channels. Even if we look at the individual Hindi News channels, the top 3 channels garner 19-21 GRPs on an average week for the same 336 timeslots – indicating that the difference between No. 1, 2 and 3 channel is a maximum of 2 GRPs (in certain weeks this difference is in fractions). Given this scenario, the debate that acquisition of landing pages gives an unfair advantage on numbers to the channels, in my view is highly overrated. A prudent media planner should scrutinize these numbers minutely and then take planning decisions rather than just listening to myopic views on the debate shows.”
Many advertisers want Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India to give a distinct report of landing page data from the actual viewership of television channels. “Yes, landing page should have separate ratings. There has to be a level playing field whereby the ratings are reported by only one parameter of viewership, which is by consumer choice. Otherwise, one single channel would tend to have an advantage over the others in the genre,” explains B. Sridhar. A pertinent question here is if the viewership boost through landings pages actually makes a channel or a news network popular? Navin Kathuria details out even more, “Even if BARC gives separate ratings for landing pages the total numbers – be it GRPs, Viewership share, Reach, ATS etc. is not going to differ drastically. I mean if the max difference between the top channels is 1-2 GRPs, how it is going to make a difference if BARC reports it separately. One would only know that a particular channel is on the landing page of STBs. And one should also not forget the fact that landing page position for a particular channel is not indefinite. It would be for a specific period and then what after that period is over? We need to understand the consumer media consumption behaviour especially for News genre. A viewer is interested in getting the correct and detailed news. Even if a channel acquires the landing page, a viewer will not watch that channel if he does not get the content in the way he wants OR if the news is overly dramatized / sensationalised or if there is no analysis / proper interpretation - he would switch to another channel. Gone are the days of channel loyalty, viewers of today are CONTENT LOYAL and they will move to the channel which airs meaningful content, irrespective of the position of the channel on the STB / cable / DTH platform. We also need to remember content consumption is not just happening on TV channels, the web hosts huge magnitudes of content and the trend of consuming content on the internet is increasing leaps and bounds every minute.” Lalchandani also seconds Kathuria’s thought, “Ideally the landing page should be stopped completely so that all news channels and other channels are at par and will be evaluated basis the content and not only ratings.”