TV viewership rose 9% in 2020 on Covid-19 pandemic, shows BARC data

From an advertising perspective, the overall volumes fell 3 per cent to 1,497 million seconds in 2020 as against 1,542 million seconds in 2019

Television consumption by Indians increased nine per cent to 999 billion weekly viewing minutes on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, rating agency BARC said on Monday.

The average time spent by every viewer increased to 4 hours and 2 minutes a day in 2020 from 3 hours 42 minutes in 2019, the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) said attributing the rise in viewership to the lockdowns where people were forced to be indoors for an extended period.

The general entertainment channels (GEC), the biggest category of TV viewing, gained nine per cent by viewing minutes, movie watching was up 10 per cent, kids reported a 27 per cent increase, while music (-11 per cent) and sports (-35 per cent) showed a decline.

News, where BARC's own record came in for a lot of scrutiny with the arrest of its former chief executive Partho Dasgupta leading to a stopping of the rating publishing, saw a 27 per cent increase, it said.

BARC CEO Sunil Lulla said the peak of TV viewing was in March, wherein the launch of older mythological classics like Ramayana and Mahabharat helped break previous records, and added that Ramayan now holds the record of the most-watched TV programme in the world.

The 'janata curfew' fuelled TV viewership, he said adding that there was a 23 per cent spike between mid-March and June, when compared with January to early-March.

From an advertising perspective, the overall volumes fell 3 per cent to 1,497 million seconds in 2020 as against 1,542 million seconds in 2019, which points to the impact of the broader economic contraction on spends.

However, the government came as a rescuer on advertising, with a 184 per cent jump in the April-June 2020 quarter as compared to the year-ago period as the need to communicate during the pandemic went up, it said.

The volumes were the highest in the April-June quarter and overall, 2020 saw a 12 per cent growth in social or government advertising on TV.

The classic serials broadcasts pulled in a lot of advertisers to Doordarshan and the ad volumes for the state broadcaster's GEC grew 62 per cent in the April-June 2020 quarter compared to the same period in 2019, the data showed.

As people stayed homebound, the non-prime time slot emerged as the prime time and now accounts for a 53 per cent share of the overall viewing, up from 51 per cent in the year-ago period.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speeches announcing the lockdown and during it, and also the independence day speech, had big traction, it said adding that there was a 60 per cent fall in TV viewership in response to the PM's appeal of having a 9-minute darkness at 9 PM.

From a TV news perspective, the initial days of the pandemic delivered the highest-ever viewing minutes at 206 billion in the 12th week of 2020, which was higher than the 9th week of 2019 where India had striked at Balakot, it said.

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