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Here’s what Indians are watching during Covid-19 lockdown. Spoiler: It’s not Friends reruns

According to an industry survey, users are spending around 12% more time on online streaming platforms during the lockdown period than they did before.

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New Delhi: Fewer series reruns, more original productions and films, please. Forced to stay indoors by the Covid-19 lockdown, Indians are spending up to four hours a week on streaming platforms like Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime and Zee5. 

And it’s not series reruns or sports that are drawing them in. An industry survey released Thursday suggests the average Indian streamer is going for movies and original series produced by the platforms.  

The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), an industry body representing broadcasters, advertisers and media agencies, in association with US-based data analytics firm Nielsen, has released the third edition of its report on TV and smartphone consumption. 

The platforms analysed for the report are Netflix, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Voot, MX Player Online and Zee5.

More time on streaming apps

While the ongoing 21-day nationwide lockdown only kicked in on 25 March, large-scale social distancing to check Covid-19 had begun in the days before, leading many companies to effect work-from-home arrangements.

According to the report, users are spending around 12 per cent more time on online streaming platforms during the lockdown period (20 March to 3 April) than they did before (calculated from 13 January to 2 February).

The report suggests each user is spending 32 per cent more time watching original series on the platform. While the report doesn’t mention any particular series, examples of popular Indian originals include Sacred Games and SHE on Netflix, and Special Ops on Hotstar.

At 52 per cent, the jump is sharper for movies, a trend possibly driven by the closure of cinema halls amid the shutdown. 

The time spent on non-original series saw a decline of 17 per cent, while that for sports is down by 83 per cent amid the suspension of most sporting events in light of the pandemic.

The number of users watching movies on the platforms has gone up by 56 per cent, while there has been a 123 per cent increase in the viewership for original series. For sports and non-original series, the number has declined by 98 per cent and 21 per cent, respectively.

Streaming helps Indians beat lockdown blues

Streaming portals have emerged as a key aid for lakhs of Indians who cannot step out for leisure until the pandemic is controlled.

To ensure the surge doesn’t hobble telecom networks, streaming platforms and other digital content companies decided to withhold high-definition (HD) viewing on mobile phones until 14 April, after a meeting chaired by Star & Disney India chairman Uday Shankar.

The Indian video-streaming market is estimated to grow to $5 billion by 2023 from $500 million in 2018, according to the US-based Boston Consulting Group. 

The Indian market saw the entry of a new player last week as global entertainment giant Disney launched its service in India through Hotstar, which it picked up as part of its 21st Century Fox acquisition in 2018.

Within days of its launch, Disney+Hotstar garnered approximately 80 lakh paid subscribers in India. 

Other streaming services have released similar statements, also promising free offerings and better parental controls to woo users. In a statement Monday, ZEE5 said it had witnessed an over 45 per cent rise in paid viewership (may include multiple people using the same subscription), 80 per cent increase in the number of new subscriptions during the lockdown.

“The viewing time has increased by over 50% with Daily Active Users (DAUs) and app downloads rising by 15 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively,” Zee5 CEO Tarun Katial had said in a media statement earlier this week.

“And the viewership on connected devices has also seen a 3X growth in this period. ZEE5’s popularity has further soared with the #BeCalmBeEntertained initiative, which urges viewers to stay calm and enjoy responsibly by staying home,” he added, noting that Zee5 had made “premium content accessible to our AVOD (ad-based video on demand, or free subscriptions that require viewers to watch ads) users for free during the lockdown period”. 

Netflix Wednesday announced what it claims to be better parental controls for the benefit of children who are spending more time at home as schools remain suspended. 

Online news consumption up too

Among other things, the report also suggested a massive jump in online gaming, with an increase of 15 per cent in the number of users per week and 44 per cent in the time spent by each of them.  

There was an increase in digital news consumption too. According to the report, the number of users per week on news websites grew by 42 per cent. 

Similarly, the number of users accessing news apps rose by 15 per cent, with the time spent by each of them going up by 41 per cent.  

Also Read: Here’s how the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown can be India’s last


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