Mind the data

Photo :istock
When P V Sindhu picked up her racquet at the Women’s Badminton Singles finals at the Rio Olympics, her every move was followed and cheered by an unprecedented 48 million television viewers in India. It would not be fair to the 21-year-old shuttler from Hyderabad, who won the silver medal, to compare this with Salman Khan’s Sultan premiere, which saw 54 million viewers but the two broke several records in viewership this year. Sindhu had all eyes glued on her, with people neither switching nor getting up through her match. Viewers spent more time on screen for her match than for our star wrestler!  Before you think we are into comparing sports and films, let me assure you that this is only one of many amazing trends that emerged in the course of the year.


Sports is numero uno among viewers. Be it Indian sportspeople at Rio who were cheered by huge numbers at home, or the new sporting leagues, (soccer, hockey, badminton and kabbadi), all have found a huge number of fans. An important piece of information that emerged last year was about the Pro-Kabbadi League (PKL); the event was watched by a large number of rural males between 31-50 years. This was possible because the Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) introduced measurement of rural viewership, offering analysts and advertisers a better understanding about their audience. Cricket, of course, is in a class of its own, though Indian Premier League remains skewed towards urban males in terms of viewership.


The surprises don’t stop with sports. Take the news broadcast sector. ‘Tremors’ are immediately picked up by our measurement system, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetisation move viewership across English news channels saw a 71 % spike. Hindi news channels saw a 45 % spike when compared to the average of four previous Tuesdays! While US elections had dominated TV on November 7, Trump was completely forgotten once demonetisation took over.


 News is a ‘must-see’ especially when there is a big event.  After the demise of Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa, viewers in the state clocked an average of seven hours and 12 minutes of TV watching on December 6, a Tuesday. These numbers reiterate the fact that TV watching is still a family event in a country, which is largely a single screen household. Viewership is also affected by natural events such as the Chennai floods in June this year. On June 6 and 7 Chennai received 89.6 mm of rainfall while the monthly average is 55.3 mm. Viewership in Tamil Nadu dropped by 10 % on both days.


We were also struck by the remarkable trends that rural market measurement brought to light. The data corroborated the perception that rural viewers in the South love their films and movie stars more than their counterparts in the north. Movies garnered as much as a 41 % viewership, followed by serials (32 %) and news (7 %) in South-rural. Compare this to North-rural; Naagin and other ‘saas bahu’ programmes emerged more popular (48 % watch these soaps versus 31 % for films). In advertising, personal care, personal hygiene, food and beverages categories rule rural India; they make up for as much as 42 % of the total ads in the region.


Finally, the biggest disruption, in the General Entertainment Channels (GEC) space, was brought about by supernatural fare. The Naagins (1 and 2), Brahmarakshas Jaag Utha Shaitaan, even episodes with a plot around a supernatural event, collectively notched up top ratings. Naagin 2, like the first season last year, helped Colors increase their ratings. This is not to say that people stopped watching their favourite love stories — Yeh Hai Mohabbatein, Kumkum Bhagya, Saath Nibhana Sathiya were in the top five most watched slot.


For films, the Hindi speaking market once again proved that theatrical hits do not always translate into TV hits. Singh is Bling, which did not do well at the box office, premiered at 11.33 million impressions and did much better than some big hits. Of course, Salman starrer Prem Ratan Dhan Payo was top of the charts with a record 25.1 million impressions for the premiere. Marathi film fans turned out to be loyal to the big and small screen, with Sairat and Natsamrat both recording great impressions.


Be it, sports, news, GEC, kids or new rural data, 2016 has had many surprises and shockers in terms of the content that has clicked with viewers. As BARC increases its penetration from 22,000 homes to 55,000, there is bound to be a deluge of data that will throw up even more interesting insights. To more exciting TV times in 2017!

Home screen truths

  • P V Sindhu’s match at the Women’s Badminton Singles Final at Rio garnered 48 million viewers, only a shade less than the 54 million for Salman Khan’s Sultan
  • Big Bollywood hits do not always bring in the eyeballs, but movies are the biggest draw in rural areas in South india
  • The Pro-Kabbadi League was among watched by a large number of rural males, 31-50 years
  • Rural viewers in the north go for soaps, choosing stories about supernatural beings, snakes and domestic strife 
The author is BARC India CEO  This is the first of a series  on media, brands, advertising and marketing that looks back on 2016 to look forward to 2017
Next: Brands in the digital age: Big lessons from 2016 for 2017