Forced confinement leading to increase in TV consumption, but…

06 Apr,2020


By Indrani Sen


On March 27, 2020 Nielsen and BARC India shared the first edition of their report “Covid-19 Impact- What’s happening in the TV and smartphone landscape” with the industry at large analysing how the lockdown has increased TV viewership in India. In the first week of the partial lockdown from March 14 to March 20 (BARC Week 11), the all-India TV viewership in minutes/week went up by 8% and TV reach went up y 6%. Overall time spent on TV went up by 2%.


BARC conducts television audience measurement in India while Nielsen passively captures smartphone behaviour through a 12,000 strong smartphone panel. The time spent on smartphones per user also went up by 6.2%. The time spent/user/week on VOD apps saw an increase of 3%. News apps saw 8% more users per week with an increase of 17% in time spent/user/week stimulated by use of non-English News apps (+87%). Gaming apps saw an increase of 2% in users/week supported by 11% increase in time spent/user/week.


We will look more closely at changes in TV audience behaviour. In Week 11, average daily viewers grew by 32Mn supported by kids, younger age groups and NCCS A. Viewing time for Television increased by over 70 billion minutes in India with each of 592Mn viewers watching TV daily for 3hr 51 minutes. Strangely, there was hardly any growth in the primetime viewership as the growth in viewership was driven by non-prime time. GECs also grew by 32% in non-primetime slots, but saw a 15% dip in the primetime slots which was higher (23%) in the Hindi Speaking Market (HSM) than the south Indian market (5%). An analysis by genres given below show that news, kids and movies gained the most in terms of daily ATS followed by infotainment, lifestyle and youth.


Last week, Nielsen and BARC released the second edition of the ‘Crisis Consumption: An Insight Series into TV, Smartphone and Audiences’ report of Week 12 (starting March 21) where four days  coincided with the first week of country wide lockdown, showing an unprecedented growth of  298%  in TV news viewership. The increase in the viewership of news channels was accompanied by a 15% growth of average daily free commercial time (FCT) to 6 lakh seconds in between March 21-27 (Week 12) compared to January 11-31, 2020 or the pre-Covid-19 period reflecting last-minute changes in the allocation of TV budgets.


All the parameters reported by BARC showed increases during Week 12 with the weekly viewing minutes (total number of minutes spent watching TV) touching 1.2 trillion. The number of people watching TV all seven days a week jumped from 32% to 44%, the average time spent per viewer increased 23% from 3 hours 46 minutes to 4 hours 39 minutes. As a result, the total number of channels consumed per viewer in the week also increased from 16 to 22. This surge is TV viewership is expected to continue during the next few days of the nation wise lock down and the spread of Covid- 19 in India will decide its future course.


It is heartening to see that the news genre has been able to get additional advertising during this lock down period. Kids’ genre, with 20%+ share of total TV viewership and only 3% share of the overall advertising space, has not been so lucky. However, on the whole the prognosis is not good when we look at ad revenue of TV channels in immediate future. Going by the current trends, TV channels will hardly be able to convert this increase in viewership to increased ad revenue. Financial Express reported on March 21, 2020 ( “As the novel Coronavirus continues to wreak havoc around the world, television is one such industry which is currently under its grip, besides other sectors. According to industry estimates, advertising expenditure on television is expected to decline 50%- 55% to anywhere between Rs 3,750 crore – Rs 4,125 crore between April-June, that is Q1 FY2021 – if the lockdown continues.”


The reported on April 2, 2020 in similar lines, though their estimate of the loss was pegged at 30-40% than 50-55% reported by Financial Times – “Top broadcasters, media buyers and advertisers ET spoke with, feel that if the situation doesn’t improve by end of April, the TV industry will end up with a 30-40% drop in ad revenues in April and May.” (


While we wait for FICCI-EY to release an update of their report on M&E industry, FICCI’s recent report on the impact of Covid-19 on the Indian economy has predicted that the pandemic will potentially derail India’s growth story by affecting both the demand and the supply side. We are going through unprecedented times when it is extremely difficult to predict even the immediate future.


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