New Delhi: The viewership of state-owned broadcaster DD National has nearly halved since the Ramayan reruns ended on 18 April, according to latest industry data.
The sixth edition of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC)-Nielsen report, which focuses on changing media habits in the fifth week of India’s lockdown, said there was a 66 per cent drop in DD National viewership during the morning slot between 18 and 24 April, and a 29 per cent drop in evening viewership. Overall, DD viewership in the period declined by 46 per cent as compared to the week before, the report, released Thursday, stated.
However, weekly BARC estimates, also released Thursday, state that DD National continues to be the most-watched channel during the lockdown.
With much of India locked indoors on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, Doordarshan brought back its mythological classic Ramayan to keep people entertained.
Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan originally went on air on Doordarshan from 25 January 1987. It was aired for over a year-and-a-half, spread over 75 episodes of 35 minutes each. The series garnered such popularity that it was rerun years later by private channels such as Zee TV and NDTV Imagine.
Beginning 28 March, three days into the lockdown, the show made a comeback on Doordarshan and two fresh episodes of the show began to be aired in as many time slots — morning and evening.
The return of the show helped Doordarshan beat private general entertainment channels (GECs) — left without original content amid the lockdown — and emerge as India’s most-watched channel.
In the first weekend of Ramayan’s return, Doordarshan registered a record-breaking viewership of 17 crore, with its YouTube numbers doubling too. DD National has since consistently topped viewership charts across genres.
DD National and DD Bharati have also brought back other iconic series, like Mahabharata, Circus, Byomkesh Bakshi and Shaktimaan, which have all contributed to its increased viewership.
Fewer takers for sequel?
The day after the final episode of Ramayan was aired on 18 April, Doordarshan brought in another classic — the 1988 sequel Uttar Ramayan, also by Ramanand Sagar.
Uttar Ramayan, which focuses on Ram’s sons Luv and Kush, is telecast every day at 9 pm, with the same episode repeated next day at 9 am.
The BARC-Nielsen report attributes the fall in DD’s morning viewership to the fact that it now features a repeat episode. The viewers of this slot, it adds, have moved to news, music and kids’ channels. The evening viewership, meanwhile, has shifted to movies and other GECs, many of whom have also begun reruns of mythological shows.
The report also points to a drop of nine percentage points in overall TV viewership, which was recorded at 31 per cent between 18 and 24 April as compared to 40 per cent the week before.
‘Many other classics in pipeline’
Sources in Prasar Bharati said the viewership of Ramayan peaked as the series approached the finale, adding that they had plenty of other reruns in the pipeline, including those of iconic mythological series such as Ramanand Sagar’s Shri Krishna (1993-1996)and B.R. Chopra’s Vishnu Puran (2000-2001).
“It was natural that when the storyline transitioned… to the sequel… viewership would decline,” a senior official in Prasar Bharati said.
“Also, we had transitioned to a slower pace of daily episodes with a repeat slot in the morning to accommodate various states wanting to broadcast educational content on various DD channels,” the official added, referring to government efforts to push ahead with the academic calendar in schools despite the lockdown.
The official said the channel continued to “see strong and sustained viewership” for Uttar Ramayan, whose last episode will be aired Saturday.
The official added that there had also been a rapid growth in viewership for Mahabharat on DD Bharati.
“Keeping India safe and informed continues to be our primary priority and we are thankful that iconic Doordarshan content enabled us to realise this objective,” the official said.