Since the beginning, most TV channels have been paying for being present as a preferred channel by placement, by paying the carriage fee or by paying for being on the landing pages.
In the good old days, when Set Top Boxes did not exist, the cable networks kept the channels stacked depending on the frequency (VHF/UHF etc) because the most available TVs couldn’t run more than a handful of channels.
The most preferred channels were put in low frequency and the least preferred ones were put on high frequency, because it was dependent on what kind of TV sets one owned. TV Channel viewership preference could be controlled by the cable operators due to their stacking. At that time, TV Channels paid cable operators so that their channels could be carried in a preferred frequency basket, generate viewership and get a share of the advertising buck.
Gradually, due to government regulations, all Cable Households converted into Set Top box lead DTH or Set Top box lead Cable HHs. This number soared to approx. 210 Million Households with access to TV, as per the BARC baseline study.
Currently, amongst the DTH Operators (Total 107/210 Million), the Paid DTH is around 67 million HHs and FTA (DD Free Dish) is around 40 million HHs. Both these DTH networks charge a carriage fee from the TV networks. It becomes an expensive proposition for a channel to launch a new channel and be “visible” in the DTH networks which primarily control the most significant Metros and Rural HHs. Apart from carriage fees, the DTH players sell their home page to Advertisers, Tele Shopping Networks, Brand Advertising, TV Channel Program promotions etc.
The Cable Operators MSOs (103/210 Million) are broken up into 46 million amongst Big MSOs and several smaller MSOs, Cable Operators adding to 57 million HHs. Both these MSO networks sell their Home Page or Landing page to a TV network, usually on the long term. Landing Pages on Television are basically a “Home Page” where a viewer lands when he or she turns the TV on. Due to overwhelming demand from TV networks, some MSOs even sell 2nd Landing Page to eager buyers willing to run the live feed on 2nd Landing Pages.
The landing page gives viewers an opportunity to sample a channel that they wouldn't have sampled, given their own preference. Meaning, the channel which has paid to be on the landing page will get default viewership. After registering “viewership” on this default “channel” for a while, one can switch to the channel of one's preference. BARC would take this “live feed default” on the “landing page” as a channel “viewed”.
If the cable operator switches the power on and off several times in a day, the channel which has paid to be a part of the “landing Page” will register “viewership” throughout the day, several times. This household, if covered under BARC panel will show a forced “viewership”, but it will go unnoticed. Hence, paying for the landing page will ensure that not only your channel is sampled, but also gradually becomes the channel of choice!
BARC currently doesn’t capture this phenomenon. Their system cannot detect this automatically, as the channel, which has paid to be a default, is kind of bypassing the system.
There are approx. 57 Million households controlled by small MSOs where landing page manipulation is done at a relatively cheaper cost since big corporate conglomerates aren’t involved. This works best for channels where even a small shift in viewership will cause a huge impact on the overall ranking of the channel. For example, news networks.
For a bigger shift in viewership, bigger MSOs can be used, but at a very high cost running in double-digit crores.
What option does that leave other new news channels with, especially those who want a fair share of the revenue from the advertisers based on good quality content? What option does it leave new, small TV channels with, those who have low viewership and hence low revenues?
Ultimately, as BARC we have a robust currency, which is constantly under self-improvement. BARC will hopefully take note of this gimmickry and call out the channels which are using this facility. By doing so, there will be a level playing field and viewers-advertisers can be the best judge based on content-viewership to take a call on what to watch and where to put money.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com