Television viewership is on the rise. A large number of businesses in and around India are staring at unprecedented losses due to the Covid-19 crisis. Dusty roads leading up to locked factory doors continue to become a common sight in India while businesses struggle to tackle the crisis and keep their businesses afloat.

However, consumption of a select basket of goods and services has experienced a sudden rise. This includes essential goods such as groceries, general utilities and other FMCG products, and services such as Video on Demand (VOD) services, internet services. With a rise of 12% in average daily viewership in the 13th post-lockdown week (starting      March 28th), the television viewership in the country has witnessed a massive hike in content consumption. Weekly viewing minutes have risen to 1266 billion minutes (43% growth) in the 13th week. Each of the 627 million viewers has watched television for an average of 4 hours 48 minutes, which marks a 28% growth in viewership hours in the 13th week.

Image: Trends of change in TV viewership between pre and post-Covid 19 (Week 12 & 13)

Trends in the Television space

The Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) is an industry-body that measures viewership of TV channels and provides a suite of insight products for broadcasters, advertisers and agencies. A recent report by Nielsen India and the BARC highlighted the trends in the smartphone and television space. A trend analysis between 11th-31st January, 2020 and the period starting 28th March was made as part of the research.

Increase in Television Viewership

The report brought out that total TV consumption increased by 8% during the 11th week (starting March 14th) and 43% by the 13th week (starting March 28th) at an all-India level. Average viewership rose from 887 billion minutes to 1266 billion minutes. Viewership base increased from 560 million viewers to 627 million viewers (representing a 12% increase) in the 13th week. Changes may be attributed to the imposition of the ‘Work-from-home’ culture across the country and the closure of business avenues, schools and colleges.

Hindi viewership and the rise of DD National

While the viewership of English channels dropped by 19%, Hindi content consumption increased by 7% at an all India level. In the absence of fresh content, Doordarshan’s strategy to bring back old classics including ‘Ramayana’, ‘Mahabharata’ and ‘Shaktiman’ worked wonders for the channel. DD became the category leader in general entertainment channels (GEC). The channel’s viewership in the two slots of broadcast of ‘Ramayana’ (9 – 10:30 a.m. and 9 – 10:30 p.m.) jumped by more than 390 times and 450 times! This indicates that the ‘nostalgic element’ acts as a catalyst for television viewership in India.

Image: The rise of DD National

Age and Genre Trends

Kids aged 2-14 years of age have led the rise in television viewership. Viewership by kids underwent a 20% increase in the 11th week and a 52% increase in the 13th week. A ZEE Entertainment executive stated that television viewership pattern experienced a change too, with children watching more news and movies, apart from the regular kids content.

The major contributors to the growth in television viewership in the 11th week came from News channels (57% growth), Kids (33% growth) and Movies (14% growth). In the 13th week, however, the Movies Genre ruled the landscape, with 77% viewership growth, followed by the surge in viewership of Sports (21%). The rise in News can be pegged to an increased hunger for information, while the rise in Movie and Sports viewership is pegged to the demand for entertainment, and telecast of classic cricket matches and WWE.

Image: News Genre leads in the 11th week, while the Movies Genre leads by the 13th week

Dominance of Non-Prime Time consumption

Television content providers generally run their most successful or coveted shows during the Prime-Time (6:00 p.m. to midnight), because the slot experiences maximum TV viewership. This is why the Prime-time block is the most in-demand spot for advertisers. However, during the post-Covid-19 period, non-prime time viewership increased by 81% at an all-India level, while Prime-time viewership increased by a mere 11% in the 13th week. The reason for this may be established as the increased consumption of news during the day. Early morning and late-night consumption also reflected an increasing trend.

Image: Dominance of Non-Prime time consumption

Advertisement Trends

Free Commercial time (FCT) refers to the number of seconds bought on a channel for advertising. Overall FCT grew by 9% in week 13. Sports registered the maximum growth in ad-commercials (86% growth), followed by News (44% and 26% growth for Business and general news). Social advertisements showed the greatest growth (a whopping 628%). Dettol, lifebuoy, Harpic, Lizol and Hotstar VIP remained the top-advertised brands.

Image: FCT recorded 9% overall growth

The Prime Minister’s Address on complete lockdown

PM Narendra Modi’s address to the country on complete lockdown was thebiggest ever news event. Unique viewers of the programme (197 million) were higher than the IPL Finals (133 million). On the other hand, the 3rd Covid-19 address on 3rd April was viewed by 119 million individuals.

Image: PM Modi’s address became the biggest ever news event

Why do the numbers matter?

Congratulations if you’ve made it up to this part of the report! The numbers you just read are not ordinary figures. They represent the master Consumer Behaviour data prepared by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), in association with data measurement and research giant, Nielsen India. These research figures shall form the basis of decisions taken by Marketing Companies across the country, over the course of the upcoming days of crisis.

It is the best and the worst time for the TV advertising industry. While historical TV viewership offers a great opportunity to brands to connect with their customers, the uncertainty of future operations are forcing companies to cut their advertisement spending to focus only on bare essentials. Elango M., the Vice President of a top advertising company said that many FMCG advertisers are not pulling back on advertisement campaigns, hoping that the salience enjoyed by brands now, will be useful when things get back to normal. The rising FCT bears cognizance to this phenomenon.

Industry experts also believe that this is the right time for brands to come forward and engage with their consumers. Social advertising offers another opportunity to brands, to show empathy, and engage with consumers through socially relevant messaging. Even if the worst is over by May-June, advertisers believe to be back in business for the festival season in October-December. Marketing in crucial times such as these shall be crucial for the entrenchment of Brand loyalty in consumer minds and for the long term growth and prosperity of businesses.

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