BENGALURU: Among the bigger networks that have channels feature in Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) weekly lists of Top 10 Channels on All Platforms, on the Pay and Free Platforms are DD, Network18/TV18/Viacom18 (or simply Viacom18) Star India, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN), The Sun TV Network (Sun Network), and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (Zeel). Many of the channels from these networks, as well as other networks were now available on Pay and Free Platforms, on the latter mainly because of their presence on Prasar Bharati’s free DTH service DD Free Dish.
Until recently, channels from these bigger networks found places mostly in BARC’s weekly lists of Top 10 Channels on All Platforms and on the Pay Platform. And until the advent of the Covid2019 Lockdown, there were generally one to four channels from two major networks/groups that were present in BARC’s weekly lists of Top 10 Free Channels Across Genres. These two are pubcaster Doordarshan and channels from or associated with the Essel group’s Zeel. Initially, DD was represented by only one of its channels, DD Sports, and that too for only the first three weeks of 2020. Zeel was represented by four of its channels in BARC’s weekly lists of Top 10 Free Channels Across Genres lists– Big Magic (Hindi GEC), Big Ganga (Bhojpuri GEC), Zee Biskope (Bhojpuri Cinema) and Zing (Youth). Only Big Magic was present during all the first 12 weeks of BARC’s Free Across Genres weekly lists. As a matter of fact, Big Magic was present during all the first 26 weeks of these BARC weekly lists of the Top Free Channels Across. Besides Big Magic, normally there were at least two other Zeel channels and sometimes even three that were present in the weekly Free Channels Across Genres lists during the first 12 weeks of 2020. But, at the same time, least six of the channels were from the smaller networks such as Enterr 10 Television and B4U Network. Enterr 10 had three to four of its channels in each of the first 12 weekly Free Platform lists, while B4U had two or three of its channels in the lists during the same period. Enterr 10’s channels included Bhojpuri Cinema, Dangal, Fakt Marathi and Enterr 10, while B4U’s channels were B4U Bhojpuri, B4U Kadak and B4U Movies.
Week 13 of 2020, the first week of the Covid2019 Lockdown had four channels– one channel from DD and three channels from Zeel, with five channels from Enterr 10 (three channels) and B4U (two channels). The India Today group’s flagship Hindi News channel Aaj Tak entered BARC’s Across Genres weekly lists for the first time, in two Across Genres lists – Across Genres on All Platforms and Across Genres Free Platform. In the absence of fresh programming, DD National started airing some of its library shows that had been very popular in the previous century, in Week 12 of 2020. These included Ramanad Sagar’s Ramayan and B R Chopra’s Mahabharat along with a number of other classics from its library. In Week 13, DD National became the most watched channel across genres on All Platforms and the Pay Platform and was also present in the Free Platform Across Genres list. DD National continued in the top 10 Across Genres lists until Week 18 2020. Week 14 saw DD Bharti enter BARC’s weekly list of Top Free Channels Across genres. The split was now five channels each between the bigger and other networks. And this split continued on till Week 22 of 2020. Weeks’ 23, 24, 25 and 26 of 2020 saw ratio of Bigger Networks: Other Networks at 7:3, 7:3, 8:2 and 7:3 respectively. Data for Week 26 of 2020 (Saturday, 27 June 2020 to Friday, 3 July 2020) is available at the time of writing of this paper. In Week 14 of 2020, the bigger networks were the same as in previous weeks – DD with two channels and Zeel with three channels. Similarly, the other networks mix was the same – Enterr 10 Television had three channels in the list while B4U Network had two channels. DD Bharti exited the Top 10 Free Across Genres list in Week 20, and DD National exited it in Week 24. For Weeks 20 and 21, there were 4 Zeel channels in the list, three channels from Enterr 10, 2 from B4U and one from DD.
In Week 23, two channels, one each from SPN and Star India and two Vaicom18 channels replaced two Zeel channels and one channel each from B4U Network and Enterr 10 Television in the list. Post Week 22 of 2020, channels from these major networks have continued their presence in BARC’s Weekly list of Top Free Channels Across Genres lists at the cost of B4U Networks and Enterr 10 Television. The bigger networks have taken over BARC’s weekly lists of Top 10 Free Channels Across Genres.
Television consumption in terms of minutes, average time spent and reach has been declining from the highs of the lockdown weeks. Getting their second rung Hindi GEC and Movies channels on DD’s free DTH platform Free Dish is probably the best thing that the four major networks SPN, Star India, Viacom18 and Zeel could have done from viewership growth point of view is concerned. Analysis of BARC data in the public domain shows that 51.6 percent of Star Utsav’s viewership was on the Free Platform. In The case of Zee Anmol, Rishtey Cineplex and Sony Pay, viewership on the Free Platform was even higher. Channels such as Dangal which has seen viewership decline with the advent of Hindi GECs’ from the major networks in recent weeks had almost 70 percent of its viewership on the free platform in Week 26 of 2020.
Besides, as stated above, GEC share of viewership has increased from the lows of the Covid2019 lockdown period. Please refer to the chart below:
Hindi GECs have seen viewership growth on the Free Platform and in Rural Markets
As mentioned above, these channels have re-joined Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) Top 10 channels weekly lists on All Platforms and on the Pay and Free Platforms or have jumped up ranks in in general in their respective genres in the Hindi Speaking Market (HSM), be it the combined urban and rural – HSM (U+R) or HSM (U) or HSM (R) over the past few weeks. After a slow and steady decline that started in Week 15 and continued in Weeks 17 to 22 of 2020 as compared to the immediate trailing week. Combined weekly impressions of the Top 10 Hindi GEC’s on All Platforms in HSM (U+R) have now grown week on week. Weeks 23, 24, 25 and 26 of 2020 saw viewership of the Top 10 Hindi GECs’ in HSM (U+R) grow by 4.9, 6.9, 4.4 and 2.5 percent respectively.
The BARC-Nielsen yardstick is the average data between Weeks 2 to 4 of 2020. Using this reference point, the combined weekly impressions of Top 10 Hindi GECs’ in HSM (U+R) have been consistently increasing starting Week 13 of 2020, except for a small fall of 0.3 percent in Week 22. Until Week 26 of 2020, consumption of the Top 10 Hindi GECs in HSM (U+R) in terms of weekly impressions has increased by 18.7 percent as compared to the Weeks two to four average and by 14 percent as compared to Week 1 of 2020. This growth has been led by the Free Hindi GECs and by the rural market or HSM (R) according to BARC data for the Top 10 Hindi GECs on the Free and Pay Platforms and in HSM (U+R), HSM (U) and HSM (R).
Exact comparison has not been done based BARC data because until Week 15 of 2020, BARC only listed the Top 9 Channels in HSM (R) and for the Free Platform in the public domain. But, considering the viewership growth of the Top 10 Hindi GECs in HSM (U+R) of 18.7 percent in Week 26 of 2020, viewership of Top 10 Hindi GECs in HSM (U) has increased by just 1.8 percent with respect to the average of Weeks 2- 4 of 2020. In the same period viewership of Top 10 Hindi GECs on the Pay Platform has declined by 2.1 percent, as compared to the average of the Top 10 channels in Weeks 2 to 4 of 2020.
The increase in viewership of GECs is also evident from the figure below based on BARC-Nielsen data for the top four most watched genres below. As is obvious the share of GEC viewership has started increasing and has come up to 48 percent in Week 26 of 2020 from the lows (40 percent) of the Covid2019 weeks, but has still to touch or exceed the pre-Covid2019 period’s 52 percent.
Some other trends in Top 10 Channels Across Genres lists in Week 26 of 2020
26 channels have appeared in BARC’s weekly lists of Top 10 Channels on All Platforms Across Genres lists during the first 26 weeks of 2020. Of these 26, only three channels – Dangal, Sony Sab and Sun TV have appeared consistently in the lists during all the 26 weeks. Among the frontline channels – Star Plus was present in the list for 21 weeks, followed by its Telugu Sibling Star Maa, which was present for 20 of 26 weeks in the lists. Weeks 25 and 26 of BARC’s weekly lists of Top 10 Channels Across Genres saw Star India’s Hindi GEC Star Utsav at rank no 1.
20 channels appeared in BARC’s weekly lists of Top 10 Pay Channels Across Genres lists during the first 26 weeks of 2020. Here also only three channels appeared in the lists for all the 26 weeks – they were Sony SAB, Star Maa and Sun TV. Sun TV has been consistently ranked 1 during all the 26 weeks to date in this list.
22 channels appeared in BARC’s weekly lists of Top 10 Free Channels Across Genres lists during the first 26 weeks of 2020. Here also only three channels appeared in the lists for all the 26 weeks – they were Dangal, Big Magic and B4U Kadak. Dangal has been consistently ranked 1 during all the 26 weeks to date in this list. Please refer to the figure below: