Landing pages on TV

One fine Monday evening, I was absent mindedly scrolling through Twitter, which was when I came across this tweet from TRAI, the Telecom Regulator in India:

Understandably, I was confused. Mainly, I wasn’t sure this topic needed such a formal open house discussion which no doubt made executives from the stakeholder companies fly to Delhi to sit in and make sure their voices were heard. So, I retweeted this and forgot about it. A few minutes later, Abinash replied to my tweet and set of a chain of events that had a very agreeable ending!

So, when you turn on the Set-Top Box, there is a channel that shows up. This channel is the landing page of the STB and apparently, STB distributors (think, Tata Sky) and broadcasters (think, Sony) were eager to put content that they wanted their customers to watch on this channel. This is a great marketing strategy, and TRAI wouldn’t necessarily come in to stop that if it was just that. There is actually a slightly more impactful effect if a distributor gets a particular channel onto their landing channel: it’s rating increases.

To understand this, we need to understand how TRP is measured. There are meters that are installed in particular houses which are selected to have a good mix of demography (age-group, gender), viewing time, etc. The TRP meter, the Bar-O-meter, captures the TV’s audio. Every channel’s audio has a fingerprint that probably has information related to what channel it is. So, the meter can capture which channel the user is watching.

Another slightly more delicate detail is that the measuring is done at the resolution of clock minutes. So, whichever channel is viewed for more than 30 seconds in a given clock minute gets the credit for that complete clock minute.

Now, when the TV is switched on, and say, NDTV is the landing channel, the Bar-O-Meter will start picking up that the user is watching NDTV. If the viewing time in this particular clock minute exceeds 30 seconds, then NDTV will get a minute of watch time that the user didn’t really ask for. In fact, it was purely incidental and any channel in NDTV’s place would have been able to get that watch time.

Clearly, this is not desirable. The reason that TRAI gives in their consultation paper is incredibly and something to very deeply think about. It was nothing short of a revelation when I read and understood what their justification really meant. This is what it was:

1.9 With  the  growth  in  the  number  of  channels  and  increasing  variety
of programmes  available,  the  task  of  both  broadcasters  and  advertisers
in   allocating   resources   becomes   increasingly   difficult.   Mark et
segmentation and targeting have become vital in such a scenario.  On the  basis
of  audience  measurement  data,  ratings  are  assigned  to various programmes
on television. Television ratings in turn influence content  and  programmes
produced  for  the  viewers.  Better  ratings would  promote  a  programme
while  poor  ratings  will  discourage  a Page 8 of programme  or  content.
Incorrect  ratings  will  lead  to  production  of content  which  may  not  be
really  popular , while  good  content  and programmes may be left out. False
and  misleading ratings, therefore, can  affect  not  only  broadcasters  and
advertisers  but  also  the  viewing public   as   well.   Therefore,   there
is   a   need   to   have   accurate measurement    and    representative    te
levision    ratings    for    the programmes.  Placement  of  television
channels  on  multiple  LCNs obliterates   the   above   said   objective   of
the   TRP   guidelines   and measurement.

So, whenever someone turns their TV on and either waits for some time to switch channels or else looks through their programme guide trying to decide what to watch, these clock minutes will be added to the rating of the landing page channel. That’s the reason TRAI passed a direction in November 2017 asking distributors to not place any TV channel whose viewership is being measured on their landing channel.

1.11 ... After  due  consideration and deliberation with stakeholders , the
Authority issued a direction dated 8th November,  2017  wherein  it was directed
that all  the  broadcasters and  distributors  of  television channels,  to
restrain  from  placing  any registered  satellite  television channel,  whose
TV  rating  is  released  by TV  rating  agency,  on  the landing  LCN  or
landing  channel  or  boot  up screen.

Full text of this direction

This direction was apparently only a temporary solution, and TRAI has now set out to solve this once and for all. I do admire the structured methodology with which they have set out to solve a problem that appears to be rather trivial at first glance, but is everything but!


There is the issue of updating technology and how it is handled by a bureaucratic organization such as TRAI. This is an interesting study of what happens when technology moves forward faster than the law was able to.

So, in 2004, they released the first Interconnection Regulations, which dealt with how distributors should inter operate with each other when they transmit analog signals (Cable TV).

Then, in 2012, they released the second Interconnection Regulations, which dealt with digital addressable systems that are being used now. The digitization of the TV services sector was started in June 2012 and austensibly completed in March 2017.

After this completion of digitization, TRAI notified everyone that Interconnection Regulations 2017 is to be followed now and that the 2004 and 2012 versions have been repealed.

But, this is where the twist is. DUH DUH DUUUUUH These 2017 regulations are sub-judice in many courts across the country! So, you can’t apply them just yet. TRAI has to wait for all the court cases to end and only after that can they apply these regulations. Until then, the old regulations (2004 and 2012) will remain in force!

And it’s entirely possible that by the time these 2017 regulations can be applied, the next TV technology is already out there and becoming popular and the whole cycle will start over again.

Reading material


THAT was the reason for the consultation paper, the consultation process and the subsequent open house discussion. I hope it makes sense now.