TV Impact: BARB responds to falling UK Asian TV ratings


With viewing figures plummeting, reach levels falling and impacts crashing to record lows, UK Asian TV channels are facing their biggest ever crisis.

Star Plus’ share has more than halved to what it was 18 months ago, while the likes of ZEE TV and Sony Entertainment Television remain on the lower side of the spectrum and after ‘Bigg Boss 11’, Colors is desperately trying to cling on to its audience. In the Pakistani TV genre, Hum TV remains ahead but has also witnessed an erratic change in its share over the past few weeks. Hum Masala, which started off strong has somewhat cooled down recently and Geo TV has done better than previously but its reach remains in a similar position compared to a year ago.

Behaviour of viewers have changed considerably over the years with the increase of digital technology and platforms like Netflix and Amazon. It is worth pointing out that while traditional television is accounted for in official viewing figures – BARB, watching television shows and channels on other platforms do not typically reflect in BARB numbers. recently caught up with BARB to get clarity on the dire state of UK Asian TV broadcasters. Our main question was to find out why there was so much variability in the numbers BARB was reporting and why viewers had diminished for such services in recent years. A BARB spokesperson told , “The first point to note is that there are wider television viewing trends that are affecting all UK channels today. There has been a decline in traditional consolidated television viewing, and a growth in unmatched viewing (non-broadcast viewing or viewing outside of the 28-day timeshift window), which includes activities such as watching DVDs, gaming and viewing to SVOD services like Netflix.

Consolidated television viewing is declining across all groups. Our panel data show that in 2017, UK individuals watched 23.68 hours weekly, a drop of 4.2% year-on-year. Asian individuals are lighter television viewers than UK individuals as whole, but they too watched fewer hours of consolidated television in 2017 compared with the previous year: 17.24 hours weekly by Indian viewers (a decrease of 2.1% year-on-year) and 16.25 hours weekly by Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other Asian viewers (a large decrease of 10.2% year-on-year).

This reduction in consolidated viewing corresponds with an increase in unmatched viewing. Our panel data show that in 2017, unmatched viewing across the whole UK population increased by 18.8% to 16.4% of all TV set usage. For Indian individuals, unmatched viewing in 2017 grew by 18.2% to 18.9% of all TV set usage, while for Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other Asian individuals, it grew more rapidly by 22.5% to 16.6% of all TV set usage. This illustrates that Asian viewers, as with the wider UK population, were more likely to be using their TV sets for activities other than watching BARB-reported channels in 2017, compared with the previous year.”

The next was to find out about the panel size that BARB uses to obtain viewership numbers. With more Asian TV channels subscribing to BARB, should the panel size sampling Asian audiences not increase? The spokesperson from BARB said, “The make-up of BARB’s panel of 5,100 UK households is determined by the Establishment Survey, a continuous survey of 53,000 household interviews annually. The Establishment Survey draws on UK Government census categories and data to set targets for the number of people from different ethnic groups that should be on the panel, in order to properly reflect the UK population.

This means that there are around 210 Asian homes on the panel, which account for the viewing data for Asian audiences. Similarly, if a channel is solely available on Sky, then its viewing figures are not based on the full panel, which covers all platforms, but on panel homes with Sky, around 2000 homes. Asian households with Sky are an even smaller subset. Given the reduced sample size, this naturally leads to greater data volatility for smaller channels.”

The spokesperson signed off by adding, “We are constantly looking at ways to reduce this data variability for smaller channels. In the past five years, we have implemented new recruitment processes to help to increase the recruitment of ethnic homes to the panel, and this year we have allocated additional resource for this. This will enable us to ensure we are meeting or exceeding the targets set by the Establishment Survey for the number of ethnic homes on the panel and to make the panel as stable as possible.”

With BARB not planning to change anything immediately in its way of reporting data for UK Asian TV channels, it is now important more than ever for the industry to come together before there are more causalities. So Asian TV broadcasters need to drop their egos, spend wisely and show signs of unity to combat these challenging times.

Keep it with for more.

Updated: 08/02/18

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