As the city of Mumbai limps back to normalcy surviving the effects of record-breaking rains and the resultant flooding, it is the news channels that have gained from this catastrophe.
According to a study undertaken by TAM Media Research to understand the effect of Mumbai floods on viewership of news channels as well as TV viewing as a whole, while the business capital was all but submerged, not just the region but the entire nation wanted to keep a watch because they were concerned.
The study clearly indicates that the total TV viewing in Mumbai on the rainy Tuesday, August 26, saw a 55 per cent drop in its prime time 8 pm to 11 pm band as compared to the previous week. The fall can be attributed to power cuts in the city and people being stranded on roads, away from television sets.
Till about a week following that day, news channels had become the guiding light for viewers across the country to get updates on the situation in the metro. According to the TAM data, the increase in time spent on news channels during the Mumbai deluge week in the all India market saw a 57 per cent increase to 94 minutes per week from 60 minutes as compared to the average four week earlier.
Looking at the six metros, time spent on news channels went up 82 per cent to 116 minutes during the deluge week from an average 64 minutes four weeks earlier.
The news channels' share as a genre went up during the deluge week to 17 per cent from 8 per cent four weeks prior to the eventful seven days and came mostly at the expense of mass entertainment, which slid to 27 per cent from 35 per cent. Hindi movies that were down to 10 per cent from 13 per cent.
The only other genre that actually witnessed a substantial surge during the deluge week, apart from news, was the sports segment. For the four weeks ending July 23, sports had a share of 3 per cent, while for the week ended July 30, the share had risen to 5 per cent.
Share of English movies and cable channels increased 1 per cent each during the deluge week. The market share of regional and religious channels, however, remained constant at 10 per cent and 1 per cent, respectively, for the same period.
Looking at other programme genres beyond news channels, viewership of mass channels witnessed a considerable drop. Of course, the visible growth in sports channel has been due to cricket. Lastly, English movie channels have moved up, while religious channels have remained the same.
Considering the impact on the viewership of news channels during similar major events in India and globally, the Mumbai floods viewership on news channels clocked the same share that we saw during the December 26, 2004 Tsunami. Both clocked a share of 11 per cent in the six metros.
During the World Trade Centre attack in the US, news channels' share in six metros had been 8 per cent, while news viewership rose to 9 per cent during the general elections in 2004.
Looking specifically at the Mumbai market, it is interesting to note that the deluge in the financial capital surpassed even the Mumbai blasts on August 25, 2003 by 8 per cent. News channels clocked a viewership share of 17 per cent vis-à-vis the 9 per cent recorded during the Mumbai blasts. Clearly, the impact that a single city can have on an entire region is immense.