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In the year of Covid, TV news appealed more to Indians than entertainment channels

BARC report shows TV news grew at the highest, at 27%, while the viewership for general entertainment channels and movies rose by 9% and 10%, respectively.

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New Delhi: The total television viewership in 2020 grew by 9 per cent — a year that was marked by the countrywide Covid-19 lockdown forcing Indians to stay indoors, a report by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) Monday stated.

Of the total TV viewership, the news genre grew at the highest — at 27 per cent.

News accounted for 10.4 per cent of the total television viewership — of which Punjabi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Tamil, Marathi and Hindi news channels saw the maximum growth. 

English news channels, however, saw a dip of 2 per cent in their viewership, the report said.

All the percentages have been calculated on the basis of weekly viewing minutes. 

The report, titled ‘The Year after Two Thousand and Nineteen’, stated that even the kids genre grew by 27 per cent, while the viewership for General Entertainment Channels (GEC) and movies rose by 9 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively, in 2020 as compared to 2019.

According to the report, viewership in non-prime time slots in all the genres grew during the lockdown period (14 March to 3 July) — to 53 per cent in 2020 from 51 per cent in 2019.

BARC has not released weekly viewership data for individual channels in the news genre since mid-October amid allegations that Republic TV and two other channels have manipulated television rating points (TRP) data.

Also read: Not just Ramayan, news programmes on TV also topping charts — over 200% jump in viewership

‘TV viewership in India rose to four-hour a day’

Paritosh Joshi, principal, Provocateur Advisory, an independent media and communications consultancy firm, and former broadcast professional, told ThePrint that the growth in television viewership is a global phenomenon, and not just in India, the advantage of which was also partly taken by the streaming services.

“Last year, there was sizable growth in screen time — on handheld devices as well as television. TV time-spent in India rose to four hour a day, but might slip back to something between 3.30 and 3.45 like it was during the pre-Covid period,” he said.

Joshi said the growth will, however, be sustained even if the ‘work from home’ phenomena starts tapering and the screen-time growth will be beneficial to content creators too.

“Smaller family sizes and continuing adoption of TV sets as an essential appliance in every household, urban and rural, will ensure there is no significant viewership loss for TV”, he said.

Lockdown contributed the most 

According to the report, there was a dip of 6 per cent in total television viewership during the pre-Covid period — 4 January to 13 March — in 2020, on a year-on-year basis.

It said the GECs and movies’ viewership dipped by a similar margin and there was a “significant drop” in news viewership as well during this period.

The drop in news viewership, the report stated, should be viewed in context of the same period in 2019 when major news events — the impending Lok Sabha elections, the terror attack in Pulwama, the subsequent Balakot air strikes by the Indian Air Force and the return of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman — unfolded.

However, during the lockdown period in 2020, with the population confined indoors, television viewership saw a jump of 18 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

Of this, the news genre viewership increased by 90 per cent during lockdown, while the GECs saw a growth of 8 per cent as compared to the same period in 2019

The growth in GEC viewership was the result of a spike in viewership of Doordarshan channels, which reran a series of classics like Ramayan and Mahabharat during the lockdown, the report said.

ThePrint had reported in May that Indian TV industry was left bleeding by the Covid-19 lockdown with most channels running repeats of popular shows due to lack of fresh content.

Other genres

The viewership for the sports genre dropped during the lockdown period due to domestic and international live sporting events being put on hold. 

The kids’ genre saw a viewership spike of 45 per cent in this period as compared to the same period in 2019.

Television viewership continued growing during the unlock phase (4 July to 18 September) — with a growth of 20 per cent in GECs as fresh content made a slow return and 29 per cent in the news genre.

In the closing months of 2020, total television viewership maintained a 6 per cent growth, with a significant spike of 127 per cent in the sports genre with the rolling out of IPL-13. 

The report stated that while television viewership grew in 2020, the first half of the year saw little interest from advertisers.

However, the situation started recovering in the second half of the year with a 20 per cent growth as compared to the same period in 2019 in advertising volumes — starting October, which was further fuelled by the return of IPL. 

Also read: No ‘significant impact’ of BARC data blackout as TV channels say ads not linked to ratings


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  1. BARC. Honestly! Who paid them to say this. People tuned in ju to get Covid updates before switching to entertainment.

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