Despite viewership growth, DD needs to overcome content, advertising challenges

DD India contributes to 22 per cent of the entire genre viewership

MUMBAI: India’s public broadcaster, Prasar Bharati, is one of the largest public broadcasters in the world. It got a big boost with DD Free Dish that enabled it to reach into the interior parts of the country where pay channels didn’t have much headway. In 2019, Prasar Bharati added 11 regional channels on DD Free Dish to expand its reach, gaining 16 per cent more viewership over the previous year (2018). Half of its viewership comes from Hindi channels and the other half from regional language channels.

Among the 24 DD channels measured by BARC India, the viewership of its English news channel DD India grew 63 per cent over the previous year, while that of DD Kisan gained 48 per cent. Notably, in the English news space, DD India contributes to 22 per cent of the entire genre viewership.

Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi S Vempati says, “Doordarshan is not just a broadcaster; it is an institution that has helped germinate, build and popularise television in India. In the dynamic broadcast sector, Doordarshan, too, is transforming itself to keep in sync with its core mandate of public service broadcasting as well as meet audience expectations.”

He further says, “Towards this, we rely on data and insights from BARC India to help target and deliver our content in a more effective manner. BARC India has done a great job in building the world’s largest TV viewership measurement system. As a key stakeholder of BARC India, we continue to engage and collaborate with the industry body as it consolidates and expands its services further.”

Recently, the pubcaster revived two of its shows Ramayan and Mahabharat during the covid-19 crisis. Although it no longer enjoys a monopoly position, Doordarshan continues to have its dedicated audience and exercises its specific responsibility of public service and socially-relevant broadcasting.

Joel Multimedia founder & CEO Varghese Thomas says, “India's public broadcaster was the one and only destination for television advertisers three decades ago. DD National, DD Metro and about 15 regional channels used to feature in all TV plans until the late 1990s. The public broadcaster has gifted a lot of good shows to the Indian television Industry such as Mahabharat, Ramayan, Surbhi, Rangoli, Chitrahaar, Superhit Muqabla, Shanti, Swabhiman etc. (Some of them were privately produced). The Friday and Saturday Hindi feature films were bumper hits among advertisers. Has anyone thought of creating a fantastic show out of a morning time band at 7 am on Sundays with a show like Rangoli? That was the power of Doordarshan during those days.”

Thomas believes that after the entrance of satellite TV channels, pubcasters could not withstand the fast-changing trends and lost audience to private channels. He says, “Today, the HSM market has 57 per cent penetration of TV in the urban+rural markets. The proliferation of satellite channels with deep pockets and focus on innovative content has changed the way TV is consumed in India.  From fiction to sitcoms to reality shows, satellite channels have all that to entertain the ever-hungry TV audience. As the audience moved, advertisers have also moved to satellite channels as it was offering multi-dimensional opportunities for the brand rather than just buying a TV spot of 30 seconds.”

Thomas, however, believes that though people in metros prefer satellite channels over public broadcasters only due to the programming, it would be a good idea to consider the public broadcaster for smaller towns and villages. “The terrestrial reach of the broadcaster is exclusive and no other broadcaster caters to that space which is very important. DD Free Dish is another superhit with 35 million connections and it's a great platform for even FTA satellite channels for distribution. Last year, the public broadcaster has generated revenue of Rs 500+ crore only by striking distribution deals with private channels.”

According to the 2nd edition of BARC India- What India Watched 2019, the total viewership on DD grew to 573 billion viewing minutes in 2019 from 492 billion viewing minutes in 2018. The viewing minutes on DD's GEC channels grew by 19 per cent from 355 billion viewing minutes in 2018 to 424 billion viewing minutes in 2019.

News genre witnessed five per cent growth in 2019 at 25 billion viewing minutes from 24 billion viewing minutes in 2018. Sports grew by four per cent at 101 billion viewing minutes in 2019 from 98 billion viewing minutes in 2018 and niche/others genre grew by 48 per cent at 23 billion viewing minutes in 2019 from 16 billion viewing minutes in 2018.

“In spite of an increase in viewership, the number of advertisers in 2019 reduced by eight to10 per cent. In terms of spends there was growth in 2018 but in 2019 overall spends across DD network dropped by 30-35 per cent. Large CPG brands have also reduced spends on the DD channels in 2019,” informs Carat India executive VP Mayank Bhatnagar.

He, too, agrees that the network has a vast untapped potential in the rural belt of the country. “The government has taken several steps to improve the quality of content and added new content to attract viewers. The viewership growth is exceptional, driven by the quality of the content and audience connect via increased presence on social media platforms. However, currently facing immense pressure from other FTA channels, DD needs to invest in the right content which is relatable and relevant to audiences,” he opines.

Havas Media Group CEO India and South East Asia Anita Nayyar believe that if the public broadcaster is able to help advertisers with an attractive number of eyeballs and quality reach through innovative programming, it can get more investments.

Nayyar says, “Depending upon the kind of audience and the markets it caters to and reaches, the investments follow. Advertisers are interested in reach and that too quality reach. With reach, the focus should be on quality of programming and that will get quality advertisers. As long as the same is delivered it should automatically attract advertisers and investments.”

She further opines, “Unfortunately, the perception of public broadcasters in spite of the reach is not up to the mark and perceived to be low quality on both the audience and content fronts. With so many options available to view and great quality content available all across they have tough competition and will need to rise to the occasion.”

There was some negative growth as well in some of the languages like Gujarati and Punjabi. Gujarati witnessed a fall of 5 per cent, the viewing minutes decreased to 9 billion in 2019 from 9.3 billion in 2018. Punjabi witnessed a 13 per cent fall in viewing minutes from 49 billion viewing minutes from 43 billion viewing minutes in 2018. 

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