TV news has come a long way from being information that passively touched human lives, to infotainment for a brief period and finally to the current era of directly impacting the lives of millions in real time. News channels are now considered to be the most potent influencers even for the democratic processes of the country.
From a one-way process, when it was all about primary news gathering to delivery that was all about packaging only, what we see today is in a true sense a multi-directional, multi-dimensional process. This has happened because the definition of newsmakers has broadened itself from just a few top ones in their respective domains to becoming truly panoramic, that has a place for even the feeblest voice in some distant corner of the country.
Today, news also has a place for voicing the opinions of somebody who may just have passively seen and experienced our nation and has expressed her view. Consider a tourist who visited India, say in 2015, and has just blogged about her firsthand experience that has made way to the top political circles for whatever reasons, courtesy social media. News television may even carry it. International media’s opinions are another such example.
We as a genre have tried our best to keep up with the changing aspirational landscape. Audiences want to see news with a global perspective. There is a conscious effort by all serious players of the genre to maintain relevance in the marketplace.
My team tells me that if we compare the third quarter of year 2015 with the corresponding quarter of the current fiscal, news has grown by 7% over the last one year on GTVTs as a parameter. With a growth of 13%, the reach of the genre has also posted strongly. Average weekly time spent on news as a genre has posted a whopping 61%, that is, 115 minutes from the earlier 72 minutes.
The following fact may not just surprise, but stun perceptual opinion-makers that the viewership of Hindi news contributes to almost 99% of overall news viewership whereas English news’ contribution is just around 1%. The same can be better understood by the fact that the time spent on Hindi news is as high as 112 minutes as a weekly average while the same for English news is just 12 minutes.
Like any other genre in the television space, the growth and the highs depend upon content pull. The only difference is, the news genre experiences spikes, as in the smaller spurts riding on big news events like the surgical strike on terror camps in Pakistan, the Uri attack, natural calamities like a tsunami or an earthquake, the PM’s international visits, election build-up like this time for Uttar Pradesh, important dates during elections, etc.
The demonetisation effect
There is something different from the examples currently being experienced by the news genre; on a lighter note it’s almost like a full Bigg Boss season that has continued the huge growth spike — demonetisation is at the core. I am reasonably sure that existing advertisers on the news genre are making the most of it during the season. The viewership has peaked so much that at times even the GECs look dwarfed.
Appointment viewing as a phenomenon is generally low on news. In the absence of any big news events, regular consumption is skewed more during morning and evening primetime bands. The genre that started off with Doordarshan-led three-four channels until a little more than a decade ago has grown on to house more than 20 odd channels as we speak. New launches still don’t surprise us. Hindi news channels are a little more in number when compared to their English counterparts. The year 2016 hasn’t been different and we have seen a few new launches. Despite the fragmentation, more than half the viewership is concentrated among the top four Hindi news channels.
The election season is peaking again with a few states gearing up for exercising their democratic duties in the coming months; the debate around demonetisation is not expected to die down anytime soon; and with cricket, which is expected to continue dazzling with packed international seasons for the Indian team, 2017 is expected to be an eventful year. The outlook is very optimistic, at least on the viewership parameters.
Touching upon the revenue aspect, it was expected to grow by 10-15% for the current fiscal. In no uncertain terms, this has taken a bit of a hit with demonetisation that has been followed by a speck of uncertainty in the macroeconomic sentiment. We have to wait and watch for now to see how things shape up. However, I do see a positive trend for news as an advertising medium, riding on its viewership that is experiencing a multiplier effect.
Chairman and editor-in-chief, India TV