The rise and fall of English news’ TV viewership

NEW DELHI: Tongues have been wagging in the industry that the English news genre viewership levels and ratings have not only been yo-yoing but also declining. From a high of an average weekly viewership of 3788 (‘000) impressions in the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) data from week 27-30, the figure has come down dramatically to 2514 (‘000) impressions in weeks 43-45.

However, a quick analysis of viewership data reveals that there doesn’t seem to be any sinister reason or rocket science involved. Viewing, as experts say, is largely a seasonal affair for various genres. For example, during summer school holidays viewership of movie channels and general entertainment channels - and to some extent even factual entertainment or infotainment channels - see a spike in viewership only because kids and moms possibly get to do more TV watching.

As far as English news genre is concerned, which forms a miniscule of the total viewership pie, questioning the fan following is not correct. In fact, the English news genre has seen a gradual growth in the period between BARC weeks 8-45; especially since the time the ratings agency rolled out the new TV universe estimate.

The genre hit a high of 5.3 million impressions in week 11, but that was because of the crucial assembly poll results week. In a country where everyone has a political view, high viewership is understandable as most people would be searching for more political and election-related news and information, said an industry expert who has been tracking TV news channels in general.

BARC India data available with highlights that after the launch of Republic TV and the emergence of Arnab Goswami in a new avatar, the English news genre had hit levels of 4.6 million impressions, but has now settled at an average 2.3 millions impressions - levels English news genre was perched at prior to launch of Republic TV.


Source: BARC India. NB: Republic TV launched in week 19. Data: All India, Male 22+ AB; Average Weekly Impressions (in ‘000); period of consideration: Week 8-45

Though competitors and critics of Arnab may not like to admit, data shows that after the launch of Republic TV the entire English news genre (including most existing players) saw a significant growth in viewership. As another industry observer pointed out, the reasons for this new-found love for English news could be for the following reasons:

-When a much anticipated and promoted event occurs (launch of Republic and return of Arnab notably) inevitably viewer interest spikes that gets funnelled into the genre.

- Also, the new channel launched with special content (stings, etc) led to the competition simultaneously airing special shows that were planned and canned earlier. All these again contributed to drive up viewership.

- Such viewership spikes (led by events like elections, results or cricket matches featuring India) are inevitable and settle down to organic levels over the long term; even Republic TV ratings have fallen from dizzying heights at the time of its debut.

That's exactly what's happening now with English news genre, the industry observer explained, driving home the point that TV channels should not jump to conclusions based on week-to-week swings. Earlier, there was one leader in the genre (notably Times Now), but now the category has two strong players. This too impacts viewership and rankings within the genre in the way as being witnessed now.

“English news as a genre has always been a story of new challengers introducing disruptions and dethroning the existing leader. From NDTV 24x7 to CNN New18 to Times Now to Republic TV, the story has repeated itself reflecting also the swing in viewer preference as newer products are introduced in the market,” a TV critic said, adding that for niche genres like English news it’s always advisable to look at long-term trends, larger period clusters, rather than week on week insights.


BARC: English & Hindi News genres show decline in ratings

Dominance of Republic TV continues as genre ratings plunge

Industry needs to understand on-ground changes in distribution, not question flux in data, says Partho Dasgupta

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