News consumption declines from the highs of lockdown weeks

Viewership share of News declined to 11% in Week 26 from 21% in Week 13


BENGALURU: News consumption has been declining in the past few weeks from the highs of the COVID2019 weeks according to the BARC-Nielsen Reports. Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) and information, data and measurement company Nielsen or BARC-Nielsen have used the average consumption between Weeks 2 and 4 of 2020 as the yardstick to compare the growth of television consumption in the weeks starting Week 11 of 2020 onward. Of the four major genres that together garner 90 percent of television consumption in India – GEC, Movies, News and the Kids genre, News is the third most consumed genre. 

During the lockdown weeks that commenced midweek 12 of 2020, television was one of the most important and credible sources of what was happening for a world that was just grappling with the concept of a true new global pandemic that was to change the way of life to the many living generations of humanity. Life as most knew changed forever as social distancing became one of the new normals. Man is a social animal – a true cliché, now humanity had to relearn how to continue being so and at the same time not come too close to other humans. A majority of humans worked from home, stayed at home and television along with the internet became the two biggest sources of news and entertainment. Theater, restaurants, resorts, hotels, malls, public places, places for recreation, parks, gardens, tourist places were shut down, production of new entertainment content stopped. News was the new currency for ‘drama’ as channels beamed content that showed how the challenges posed by the pandemic ware being faced in different geographies. Heartening stories of the survivors of the virus, of the people, the COVID2019 warriors who made life bearable for the rest of us were aired across news channels. Prime minister Narendra Modi’s speeches drew never before imagined eyeballs to the news channels that aired them ‘live’. Slowly humans started to know more and more of the devil that forced them to stay at home.

Overtime, as humans understood more and more about the pandemic, the initial training that the lockdowns imparted began to be a part of the new normal, nations including India, started to open up once again, to unlock. Many people returned to work, television consumption in terms of minutes, average time spent and reach has been declining from the highs of the lockdown weeksas did news consumption. There were a few blips when television news did see viewership increase – this was in week 24 of 2020 when Indians were hit with two big blows on consecutive days – June 14 of 2020 saw the death by suicide of the very popular Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, which was followed by the Galwan Valley attack on 15 June. 

Please refer to the figure below that shows consumption share of the top 4 genres up to Week 26 of 2020.

The Hindi News genre in the Hindi Speaking Market or HSM has significant viewership. News consumption in the four South Indian languages of Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu spoken in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, and Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Telangana respectively is quite high. BARC defines HSM as all India minus the states where these four South Indian languages have evolved. BARC publishes data in the public domain of the Top 5 News channels in Hindi in HSM, English (all India), Assamese (Assam / North East / Sikkim(U+R)); Bangla (West Bengal), Kannada (Karnataka), Malayalam (Kerala), Marathi (Maharashtra & Goa), Oriya (Odisha), Tamil (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry), Telugu (AP and Telangana). The demographics in the all the cases as of Week 17 of 2020 are 2+ in that particular market. Begore Week 17 of 2020, BARC published data for different demographics in the case of Hindi and English News in the public domain, hence the charts below show data from Week 17 of 2020 onward.

The figure below shows that consumption of the top 5 Hindi News channels and the South Indian languages has been declining.

Consumption of the Top 5 News channels in the regional languages has also been declining. Marathi News had the highest consumption in Maharashtra and Goa as compared to the other languages news channels in their respective territories, Mumbai, the financial capital and the capital of Bollywood is in Maharashtra were impacted by the two events in Week 24 of 2020 as is obvious from the graph below.

English News consumption has also been declining over the past few weeks and the trend would have continued, but for data for the Arnab Goswami led Republic TV which seems to have bucked the trend in week 24 of 2020. Despite the combined weekly impressions of the Top 5 English News channels in Week 27 of 2020 declining versus Week 26, Republic TV, which heads the genre, saw viewership increase 7.2 percent during the same period.

Please refer to the figure below for consumption trends of the Top 5 English News channels.

New GEC content production commenced in a few places after Unlock 1.0 came into force. Hindi content production has commenced in the previous week. OTT platforms such as Netflix have announced premieres of a lot of new entertainment content. This is sure to take away the viewership from News channels, more so during primetime. However, the world will never be the same.

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