News channels gain steam as polls loom


New Delhi: Television news viewership that hit a record following the pandemic outbreak and plunged thereafter as normalcy resumed has begun to pick up again, at a time critical state and general elections are approaching.

At the beginning of the lockdown, the news category commanded nearly a fifth of overall TV viewership, thanks to lack of fresh content and viewers’ hunger for covid-related information, only to fall to nearly 4% as the economy opened up. However, its share has spurted further to 7.1%, latest data accessed by Mint showed.

Television monitoring agency BARC did not respond to a query to confirm the figures.

“The news category is witnessing a resurgence, with an increase of almost 10% compared to the first quarter of the year. This can be attributed to significant news events and high-impact stories, including the political crisis in Maharashtra, Uniform Civil Code, Manipur violence and Gyanvapi issue,” M.K. Anand, managing director and CEO of Times Network said. He added that the news category is poised for strong performance in the near to mid-term, and state and general elections will be the primary drivers for news viewership.

The pandemic outbreak triggered widespread panic and confusion, driving people to seek information on the rapidly evolving scenario, and lifting news channels. “Besides, the void created due to the absence of new content in GECs and sporting events redirected attention to news channels, further propelling the growth in viewership. Between Week 39 of 2020 and Week 10 of 2022, news channels experienced a data blackout. Once ratings were reinstated, the news genre gradually returned to its initial level of viewership,” Anand said.

Contrary to popular perception, it is heartening to see that linear television has rebounded and there is no looking back for it, said Avinash Kaul, chief executive officer, Network18 and managing director, A+E networks, TV18. The network is expecting much traction around the elections. “Compared to 3,500 hours of election-related content in 2019, we’re looking at 5,000 hours this time between August and May, not even considering live counting days. Plus, a plethora of ground events such as open mics, state-by-state townhalls and so on,” Kaul said.

Advertiser interest in the news genre has seen a resurgence too, with a 28% growth in the first quarter compared to the same period last year, on the back of reach and ratings, Kaul added.

While the year should be good for the news genre and broadcasters are likely to get additional reach, there are challenges to the same, said Barun Das, managing director and CEO, TV9 Network. “It is up to us to hold on to it so that it doesn’t go back to that level of 5% or 4% as it was earlier. If we reach 7% to 9% at the peak of elections, we should try and settle down to may be 7% or 6%, which is higher than the previous phase,” Das said.

To be sure, while events like elections will make for a good time in the next one year or so, Partho Dasgupta, managing partner, Thoth Advisors and ex-CEO, BARC India anticipates a spike in digital viewership of news and news-related content that could affect linear TV viewership as well. “Advertiser interest has been usual apart from a couple of CPG companies stating that they are withdrawing partly due to alleged toxicity in content. With consumer offtake increasing, advertising interest should also increase organically,” Dasgupta said.

Catch all the Industry News, Banking News and Updates on Live Mint.
Download The Mint News App to get Daily Market Updates.


Updated: 16 Aug 2023, 11:46 PM IST

Leave A Reply