Audience-watching trends have shown that with the Gujarat earthquake, the post-Budget crisis and the Tehelka.com expose have increased audience shares of some news channels by as much as five fold. The newly-launched Hindi news channel 'Aaj Tak' could not have hoped for a better time to launch, and Star News claims its total audience has risen by 500 per cent. In the competition among news channels, Zee News still is at the helm.
For the week beginning January 22, in which the Gujarat earthquake struck, the time spent per viewer for the six news channels (BBC, CNBC, CNN, Zee News, Star News and Sun News) went up sharply from 59.4 minutes to 76.2. In the subsequent week beginning January 29, it continued to rise with an average of 81 minutes, but then tapered off to an average of around 55 minutes for the subsequent four weeks (Intam-7 cities, Male SEC A 25+ C&S, All TV).
Significantly though, the gain of the 'local' news channels is the loss of 'international' ones like BBC and CNN. The time-spent-per-viewer per week on both Zee and Star goes up from 42 minutes in the week beginning January 15 to around 57 minutes for the week beginning January 22 (the 'earthquake' week), and then again up to 65 and 59 minutes per viewer for Zee and Star, respectively for the week beginning January 29.
On the other hand, the time spent per viewer for BBC and CNN fell from 22 minutes to 20 minutes in the case of BBC for the week beginning January 15 to the week beginning January 22, while for CNN the fall was from 42 minutes to 27 minutes.
As far as audience share of those watching news channels, Zee News has clearly been ahead with as much as 51 per cent of the share through January and the first half of February. However, after the launch of 'Aaj Tak' by the Living Media group, the audience share began falling from the week beginning February 26. The latest figures for the week March 5-12 shows 'Aaj Tak' with an audience share of 31 per cent compared to Zee's 28 and Star News' 18 per cent. (Intam - 5 cities, Male 25+ SEC ABC, C&S).
The prime time band from 7 pm to 10 pm and the morning band from 7 to 8 am for the week beginning March 5 reflect that on all-India TVRs (television rating points) Zee was still ahead. In prime time, Zee News registered a TVR of 0.38, Star News 0.25 and Aaj Tak 0.33. In the morning 'breakfast' band, Zee was ahead with an average TVR of 1.4, with Star News following at 0.44 and Aaj Tak notching 0.73.
These TVR figures also reflect how small the share of the news channels is when compared to the whole universe of television watchers. A study done by media-buying agency Carat India shows that in the extended prime time band from 7 pm to 12 midnight, all the six news channels put together had a measely total audience share of 1.8 per cent for the month January 15 to February 11. Compare this to the Hindi entertainment channels where Star Plus commanded a share of 15.8 per cent, while Sony Entertainment Television (SET) had 9.3, followed by Zee TV with 8.3 per cent.
The same study also shows that in the morning band the news channels perform better and there is reduced clutter with the Hindi entertainment channels hogging fewer eyeballs. The average news channels' share in the 7 am-to-10 am slot for the same Jan-Feb 4 weeks goes up to 2.9 per cent.
Doordarshan too, which has an infotainment mix in the morning, has a high share of 24.5 per cent. The Hindi entertainment channels, on the other hand, have a much lower share with Zee notching 4.0 per cent, Sony 4.7 per cent and Star Plus 2.3 per cent. (Intam-6 cities, Male C&S homes).
In the fight between BBC and CNN, it is the former which leads with a 4-week average reach of 4,457 compared to CNN's 2,303. (Carat study-- Jan 15 to Feb 11).