MUMBAI: The war may have delivered death and destruction to Iraq, but it certainly came as good news for the news channels. Total TV news viewership has gone up significantly these past few weeks and it has come at a time when new news channels are sprouting all over the place.
And what must be good news for the new news channels is that while there has been some amount of cannibalisation of audience share, more significant has been the increase in the time spent watching the news which has led to viewership jumps for all channels.
Data released by TAM Media that surveyed males 15 years and above across north and west India (including Hyderabad) for a six-week period between 23 February and 5 April threw up some interesting findings. Time (in minutes) spent in a week watching TV news went up from 51 minutes in week one of the survey, shot up to 105 in week four (when the US-led invasion of Iraq commenced) and stabilised at 91 minutes by week six.
Lead news channel Aaj Tak's total viewership share went up from 2.71 to 5.09, Zee News from 1.21 to 2.13 and Star News from 0.45 to 1.4.
CNN SHOWS LARGEST GAIN, GOES PAST BBC
In terms of sheer jump though it was CNN that had the biggest reason to celebrate. In what is a first for the American channel, it has gone ahead of the Beebs in India. CNN leapt from 0.04 to 0.51 while the BBC increased its viewership from 0.12 to 0.45.
STAR NEWS, SAHARA SAMAY MAKE AN IMPACT
As regards TV news audience share, the data thrown up in week 6 (30 march to 5 April) which is when the new Star News became functional, as also the addition of Sahara Samay to the equation, has had its impact. Aaj Tak's TV news audience share has dipped from 59 to 51 per cent and Zee News from 26 to 21 per cent. The gainers have been Star News (10 to 14 per cent) and Sahara Samay - 0 to 4 per cent.
CNN has gone up from 1 to 5 per cent, ahead of BBC which rose only a single percentage point from 3 to 4 per cent.
All things considered though Sahara Samay's has been the most incredible story thus far. It doesn't have the high-profile presenters that Prannoy Roy's NDTV boasts, nor the backing of a News Corp and the experience of Fox News that Star News enjoys. But it is certainly making its mark. And if it continues the way it has started, Sahara Samay could well turn out to be the real success story in this round of news channel sparring.