Demystifying news television viewership in 2017

BENGALURU: On 9 November 2016, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation, the share of news television viewership shot up to 21 percent as compared to the 11 percent during the previous eight weeks. This unscheduled event made news the second most watched genre on television after GECs on that day as stunned Indians grappled to understand the new and unknown tomorrow suddenly thrust upon them by the powers that be. Over the long term, news has grabbed about 8 percent of eyeballs glued to television and is generally the third most watched genre after GECs and movies.

This and other data was shared by the Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) in a newsletter titled ‘Breaking the News Story.’ Divided into three parts, the newsletter delves into the contribution of the news landscape to television viewership; viewership analysis of a scheduled event; and viewership analysis of an unscheduled event.

BARC has used its own and BMW data from week 8 to week 48 of 2017, the target group being all India. It says that it has considered all the news channels in India.

The news landscape

News in India is a dynamic and an extremely diversified genre. It has witnessed a 15 percent increase in the number of channels from 142 channels in 2017 to 163 channels in 2017.

In terms of the number of news channels, viewership numbers are skewed in favour of Hindi news–36 percent of the news channels are in Hindi whereas news in the language attracts 47 percent of the eyeballs (total impressions) that watch the news genre. Regional channels, of which there were 93 regional news channels in 2017 spread across multiple regional languages, (eight percent more than in 2016) or 57 percent of the total, had a 52 percent share of the total impressions in the genre. English news channels made up 7 percent of the total number of 163 news channels in the country in 2017. Their combined viewership share of the genre was, however, a measly 1 percent. Despite this, the number of English news channels have grown by 33 percent to 12 active channels in 2017 as compared with 2016.

People like to know of events and incidents happening around them that have a direct impact on their lives. BARC says that this is probably why the largest share of the viewership takes place on regional channels. BARC explains the large consumption of Hindi language news to the large number of Hindi-speaking markets in the country with 58 news channels catering to them currently versus 47 channels in 2016.

Viewership by state markets

Across zones in the country, consumption of news was highest in South India–its share of viewership was 36 percent, followed by the North with 26 percent, the West with 23 percent and the East with 15 percent.

Among states, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi had the highest relative market share for the news genre. The Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, North East, Sikkim and Kerala markets also showed a higher preference towards the news genre.

Two states–Maharashtra and Goa–accounted for more than 50 percent of the news viewership in the West but contributed a relatively less share of eyeballs for news content as compared to total television.

Audience profile

Looking at the audience profile of the news genre, the gender ratio is skewed towards males–54 percent male to 46 percent female as against an even split of 50 percent for both males and females for total
TV consumption.

News viewership is quite fragmented between all age groups. The share of viewership at 14 percent for news is far higher for kids between 2 to 14 years as compared to that of mature people between 51 and 60 years at 12 percent and seniors who are 61 years or older at 9 percent. BARC attributes this anomaly to the fact that most households own a single TV set and hence there is co-viewing and also because kids form the largest age group in India.

NCCS A and B show a marginally higher preference for news channels as compared to total TV while the preference among NCCS C, D and E is relatively lower.

On an all-India level, the news genre audience is skewed towards males, age group of 22+ and NCCS A and B as compared to total TV viewership. Hence, further analysis in BARC’s newsletter has been done on the target group of males 22+ years of age.

Viewership trends in the context of events

BARC has looked at viewership trends from October 2015 to October 2017. Over the two-year period, BARC concludes that news is a dynamic genre with viewers moving in and out depending upon the stories and events being covered with some events leading to a higher spike in viewership than others. The biggest spike in viewership during the period under consideration took place at the time of the demise of Tamil Nadu’s chief minister Jayalalitha on 5 December 2016. The next bigger spike was demonetisation as stated earlier. Politically significant events such as elections also lead to spikes in viewership.

Viewership analysis of a scheduled event–state elections

BARC has considered state elections from 2016 and 2017 and shared all-day time-band trends for viewership data for pre-election week versus election-day versus results day for West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu/Pondicherry and Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand.

According to BARC data, election results day received significantly high viewership throughout the day across all markets as compared to election day as well as the days leading up to the event.

The importance of election day and result day varied across markets. Growth was highest for Kerala on result day as compared to the pre-election days and least for Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand. The difference in viewership in pre-election day and election day was the maximum in the case of Tamil Nadu/Pondicherry indicating the importance of election day for this market, while the other markets were predominantly results oriented. Viewership in the Tamil Nadu/Pondicherry market had a more fluctuating trend through the day with viewership peaking in the morning and then again in the afternoon between 1400 and 1430 hours.

The viewership trendline for pre-election weeks and election-day was similar for Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand with very minor deviations indicating that election did not hold too much significance for this market.

West Bengal/Kerala registered high viewership in the morning hours between 0730 and 1030 hours on results day. After this time period, viewership in case of Kerala dropped down steeply, while in the case of West Bengal the decline was gradual.

On election day, viewership on regional channels was significantly higher for each of the state markets. It may be noted that BARC has considered the respective news channel for each market as the regional channel. This means that Bangla news channels in the West Bengal market, Malayalam news for Kerala, Tamil for Tamil Nadu and Hindi for Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand have been considered regional channels for each market respectively. The two southern markets of Kerala and Tamil Nadu did not register any viewership on Hindi language news. The viewership on national news channels (English news channels) also remained negligible because the event was very local and state specific in nature.

BARC says that its data reveals that news bulletins were the most popular formats of news consumption on election result day for various markets. The next most popular format was interviews and discussions. The share of news viewing was comparable for West Bengal and Tamil Nadu/Pondicherry. While audiences in West Bengal also had some preferences for talk shows/chat shows, in Tamil Nadu/Pondicherry, the viewership was only split between the bulletins and interview formats.

Reviews/reports were popular in only market–Kerala while Uttar Pradesh/Uttarakhand had a preference for only one story format–news bulletins—and other formats accounted for very little viewership there.

On election result day, the break duration on the channels on average went down and the programming increased. In all likelihood, the channels were trying to ensure viewer stickiness by covering the results from various perspectives and angles and, hence, taking fewer breaks.

Viewership analysis of unscheduled events

Unscheduled events cannot be predicted and can happen at any time and, hence, are very immediate and sudden in nature and are covered by channels as the story breaks.

BARC analysed trends on 8 November 2016, the day the Prime Minister announced demonetisation. Television viewership did not vary significantly from previous weeks until 2000 hours as this was when Narendra Modi announced demonetisation. In the aftermath of the announcement, on 9 November 2016, viewership of the news genre remained substantially higher through the day than the previous weeks’ average as people tuned in for updates and implications of the situation. While the overall viewership trend of news channels across various hours was the same across various day parts in line with the regular viewership pattern, a lot more people watched the news on 9 November 2016.

On 9 November 2016, though GEC remained the most preferred genre, its viewership impressions declined by 5 percent to 49 percent from the previous 8-week average of 54 percent. Movie genre viewership impressions declined by 4 percent and brought the genre down to third place from second with a viewership share of 18 percent on that day as compared to the previous 8-week average of 22 percent. As mentioned above, viewership impressions of the news genre climbed up to second place from the third place to 21 percent from the previous 8-week average of 11 percent. Viewership impressions of the music genre declined by a percentage point to 3 percent from the previous 8-week average of 4 percent. The kids, sports, infotainment, business news and other genres retained their 8-week average viewership shares of 4 percent, 2 percent,1 percent, 0 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

News bulletins were the most popular formats of news consumption on 9 November with 78 percent viewership, followed by interviews and discussion, while the other story formats seeing a relative decline in share.

BARC has surmised that in the case of unscheduled events, viewers preferred quick takeaways while viewers were also interested in more detailed formats in the case of scheduled events.

BARC has analysed the impact of demonetisation on advertisement by considering the 15-day periods before and after demonetisation. It says that the difference between total advertising FCT pre and post demonetisation was a staggering decline–10 percent down in the case of total television and an even higher 13 percent decline in the case of news television.

Post demonetisation, ad insertions for anywhere banking, ATM services/debit cards went up significantly as compared to pre-demonetisation.

Also read:

BARC ratings: BBC World, News Nation enter top 5 in news genre

Star Bharat leads Hindi GEC (U+R) in BARC week 52

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