India-Pakistan Ratings: Busting the Fragmentation Myth

28 Jun,2019

The Amul ad on the India-Pakistan World Cup match

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

The ratings for the India-Pakistan World Cup cricket match on June 16 are out. The hopelessly-one-sided game scored a whopping 18+ TVR (Urban All India). Ratings nearing 20 can only evoke nostalgia for those following the Indian TV market over the years. It’s in the first half of the decade of 2000s that one would see such numbers for daily shows, with Kyunkii… and Kahaani… leading the way for a while. Thereafter, the numbers progressively dropped, a trend that’s generally believed to be an outcome of the launch of more channels and the resultant fragmentation of content choices available.

 

The top Hindi GEC show moved from the 20-mark in early 2000s to the 10-mark late in that decade. In the first half of the decade starting 2010, the 5-6 level was aspiring enough. Today, even a 3-level is gold.

 

Movie ratings have also shown a downward trend, but nowhere close to soaps. The top movie could do 15+ rating about 15 years ago, the equivalent of which is a 7-8 rating today. That’s a 50-60% drop, vis-à-vis an 80%+ more drop when you compare the top Hindi GEC shows across the same two periods.

 

The popular belief has been that with the expansion of the measurement universe over the years, the true heterogeneity of the Indian market has a more and more significant impact on the TV ratings. That, combined with a multiplication in the number of channel options, would mean that fragmentation, and the resultant creation of a long tail, is inevitable.

 

The India-Pakistan match ratings challenge this notion head on. The message from the audience is clear: If there’s content that carries a certain level of appeal and viewer pull, India can be fairly homogenous after all. Yes, there are more options and more diversity in the universe today. But there’s always content that cuts through, because it enjoys that broad-based appeal. And hence, justifying sub-3 numbers as the best-case scenario is only a self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby content creators and broadcasters are justifying low ratings as a market behaviour, than questioning them as symptoms of a loss in the collective ability of the industry to make truly mass, pan-India shows.

 

One may argue that big-ticket sporting events have the ability that genres like drama, comedy and non-scripted content lack. That’s a fair argument too. But one is not expecting the top show to deliver 18-rating. Even the inert and one-sided India-South Africa match touched the 6-mark (averaged over more than seven hours, no less!). That’s surely a level a top Hindi GEC show should aspire to achieve. But today, even half of that is being celebrated as an outright success.

 

If these signs continue, we may soon be a television market where sports, news and movies become the staple, and drama the alternative. It has already started happening during events like the IPL, the elections and now the World Cup. It could be a matter of time when more routine days begin to exhibit this trend too.

 

If all the content creators can take a week’s break from their OTT pre-occupation and think about this, I’m sure they have the collective ability to come up with something worthy. The real question is: Do they have the will? Or has television already been reduced to a fuddy-duddy medium that’s not even cool to ideate about?

 

 

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