Landing page, the first channel that gets displayed when a viewer switches on the TV, is used by television networks as an important marketing strategy. While broadcasters use landing page for all genres, news networks are seen as the biggest culprits when it comes to using them to gain an unfair advantage.
According to an industry observer, because the news genre is smaller, even a 30-second or a 40-second presence on landing page contributes significantly. As the overall universe is very small and there is fierce competition in the category, being on landing pages brings higher reach and time spent for news channels. However, for GECs, landing pages contribute little to the overall reach and viewership. Entertainment channels use landing pages to increase sampling.
So, does the boost in viewership due to landing pages actually reflect the channel's popularity?
“Not necessarily,” says Shashank Srivastava, Senior Executive Director, Marketing & Sales, Maruti Suzuki. “As the audience viewing the channel on the landing page may not be watching it because they have any affinity towards the channel content but more so because they end up landing on the channel. In fact, landing pages are like ad inventory for channels themselves,” he explains.
“Since, we depend a lot on data and viewership numbers while considering channels for our TV plan, it’s imperative that we get the data that is dependable,” reasons Srivastava. News is a very critical genre for Maruti Suzuki, with almost 15-20 per cent of their investments going into the category.
Srivastava explains that the landing pages may provide a boost to overall channel performance, but considering the other factors Maruti Suzuki consider for media planning, their effect may tend to normalize as the GRP base of news genre share in overall industry is not very high. “We take performance view of the channels, including news, over couple of weeks not the recent performance. And also, when you split the channel performance on various TG cuts, as in our case say its 22~40 Male NCCS A, the effect of the overall performance spike may not result in a drastic change in channel ranking.”
He further adds that for advertisers, it’s important to gauge the pulse of the audience and their likings and the only platform to fall back on is the weekly ratings that are published on BARC.
exchang4media reported in June that advertisers have asked BARC India to separate landing page data from TV channel viewership data. Brands and marketers believe that the ratings that happen due to the use of landing page are meaningless as it is akin to forced viewership. For advertisers, what matters is the amount of traction that their campaign receives. Marketers say while choosing a news channel for advertising, they consider the viewership and ratings of the previous weeks, the content of the news channels, how much people engage with the channel, and how much time they spend on it.
"As an advertiser, we definitely consider viewership. We also see how many people are engaging with the channel and if my target audience is watching the channel. All of these factors are taken into account while advertising,” shares Ninad Umargekar, Chief Marketing Strategist, JG Hosiery.
Umargekar strongly believes that landing page and organic viewership should be tracked separately. "When it comes to capturing viewership, they should specify separately what is organic viewership and what is the viewership coming through landing pages," he says.
He went on to say that the brand doesn't know how much time people spend on the landing page, whether they're actually engaging or being forced to watch a specific channel.
“Landing pages viewership does not accurately reflect the popularity of the channel. A landing page is a paid tool, similar to a free sample. Only when people are willing to spend their time, subscribe or pay for a channel, is it counted as a view measure. Free sampling cannot be considered as sale, and the same goes with TV channels.”
"When an advertiser invests because the channel is doing well, the channel cannot show free numbers where they are pushing it to people. The data should be separated and shown as two separate things, not combined at all," Umargekar expounds.
Rajiv Dubey, Head of Media, Dabur India, too says that landing page surely gives an edge to the TV channels who are fighting a tough battle to retain viewership. “Overall, TV viewership has declined to a dismal 3.8 per cent, as against the peak of 20 per cent during the pandemic. In this small space, over 32 news channels are operating and fighting for the limited AdEx. The one who has the deep pockets obviously wins the BARC ranking and advertising race as well.”
“However, most advertisers know this game and invest their money wisely. They know people watch TV channels of their choice. Their choice is mostly based on programming not on rankings,” he explains. Dubey also warns that the landing page game can’t be played forever as no one can spend such a huge amount of money for a very long time.
Dubey suggests that BARC must provide landing page details separately. “Not everyone tracks the landing page impact. If BARC calls out the channels who buy landing pages, all advertisers will have a fair idea of the channel’s viewership and organic growth.”