BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) India is a multi-stakeholder industry organisation founded by different players in the Indian television and advertising ecosystems with the purpose of designing, commissioning, supervising, and owning an accurate, reliable, and timely television audience measuring system for India. Partho Dasgupta, the former CEO of BARC talks at length about the hard work he did, the challenges he faced and overcame and everything that went behind setting up the world’s largest television audience measurement service.

In India, television has a long and illustrious history. Over 836 million people watch television every day. And for them, BARC’s ratings are the most dependable and trustworthy currency for measuring television audiences in the complex Indian television market.

The company is a technology-enabled research firm with around 76 per cent of investment going into technology. “Given the low ad-to-gross-domestic-product ratio, India needs a scalable yet cost-effective rating system. These are two opposing demands. Then there’s the system’s integrity. This is how we came up with 12 procedures and over 30 vendors, all of which were the best of the breed. Every year, more than 1.1 billion viewer records are generated by 51 software programmes running in seven locations,” informs Partho Dasgupta.

All of this is made possible by technological advancements. No one in the process is aware of what the others are doing. There is no context because it is being done for the first time. “We did the metre in Rs 25,000 each. Each TAM metre is said to cost Rs 1.5 lakh. We would like to reduce it to Rs 10,000, Partho Dasgupta had said.

However, the journey had not been simple up to this point, with numerous bumps and unexpected twists and turns. Appointed as CEO of BARC, Partho Dasgupta had to figure out everything, starting from funding. Partho Dasgupta says, “Carrying so many stakeholders, each with their own set of interests together, has been one of the biggest challenges for us. We also opted for a multi-vendor model, instead of a single vendor because we wanted the system to be robust, high integrity and cost efficient, which has worked in our favour.” Adding to that he say, “We also had to deal with funding issue. To address this, we guaranteed a seamless financial closure without the stakeholders having to put cash into the company.”

Talking about the achievements Dasgupta, the Managing Partner of Thoth Advisors, mentions that BARC is a Section 8 non-profit organisation where profits can be made and used, but dividends cannot be paid to shareholders. As a result, venture capital and private equity were no longer viable options. So, the company contacted two or three banks, all of which were happy to be on board. “We were able to acquire Rs 180 crore from banks with the help of shareholders who agreed to act as guarantors. This ensures that everyone is invested in getting the system up and running, as they stand to lose if it does not. For being on the BARC system, broadcasters have paid an additional Rs 100 crore on watermarking technology. These are assets they own themselves,” informs Partho Dasgupta BARC.

To celebrate the successful rollout of BARC, IIM Calcutta, India’s best management college, has conducted a case study on India’s television viewership system. It culminates in the establishment of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). The case study is intended to assist participants in various IIM Calcutta academic programmes, as well as students from other institutes, in honing their concepts learned in marketing, media, organisational strategy, and finance courses, using recent real-life developments in the Indian media industry. It will delve into BARC India’s TV viewership measuring system’s unique structure, financial model, cutting-edge technologies, and multi-vendor structure, allowing it to become one of the most advanced and dependable TV measurement systems in the world.

The media landscape was shifting, and the writing was on the wall that television would no longer be the dominant medium it once was. As a result, Dasgupta invested in people and systems to assess the digital ecosystem – both content and advertising – with shareholder consent. It also ran successful pilots, but due to ecological conflicts, it was unable to proceed.

Partho Dasgupta, who is now the Managing Partner of Thoth Advisors, foresaw revenue streams that may be deemed by-products of the system and invested accordingly. This was done to diversify the ratings service’s revenue stream. These were products that used deep analytics and artificial intelligence to provide predicted information about news, sports, music, and other categories. The income from them, as well as maybe some overseas work, helped to reduce the expense burden on current customers.

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