ABP News-e4m Webinar: TV news saw 34% jump in GRPs in first week of lockdown: Sam Balsara

Sam Balsara, Chairman & Managing Director, Madison World shares his insights on the growth of the news genre post-COVID in the ongoing ABP News-e4m Webinar series

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: May 20, 2020 9:20 AM
Sam Balsara

Television news is the only genre, which, during the course of the 8-week lockdown in the nation, has been thriving. News has seen an unprecedented hike of 200% viewership rate. Despite so many challenges that came with reporting and producing news during the lockdown, television news channels have persevered against the odds, generating fresh content. Most of the modest Adex in this period also went towards the genre. 

In the 4th edition of the e4m Webinar series ‘Is News Undervalued?’ Sam Balsara, Chairman & Managing Director, Madison World spoke to Naziya Alvi Rahman, Editor, exchane4media, on the topic ‘Is 2020 the year of NEWS?’.

Balsara explored topics like fragmentation that has had an impact on the revenue for the genre and the continued upward trend seen in news this year post-COVID. 

Commenting on whether the viewership hike has translated into revenue, Balsara said, “We are living in unprecedented times. I will soon be completing 50 years of working and have never seen television news doing so well. TV viewership has already shot through the roof. In Television from an average weekly GRPs of 3,500 and an average at an all India level, the first week of lockdown saw a 34% jump to 4,800 GRP.”  

News channel viewership is now not restricted to only prime time. People are consuming news throughout the day and regional news channels are doing equally well as compared to the big players.  

Balsara said that the total news channels GRPs have moved up from 300 to over 1000 in the first week of lockdown, representing a dramatic three-fold-plus increase. “In week 7, news channels still showed a two and a half times increase from the pre-lockdown era. Another significant finding is that female viewership of news has gone up as much as total male viewership”, he explained.  

Balsara points out that despite all the signs of CPRP and reach, advertisers ultimately must realize that it is a market place. He explained, “In a market place price is determined by overall demand and supply and not necessarily benchmarks that agencies and advertisers may come up with. The harsh reality is that Adex that we give to the advertising media market collapsed in April to the extent of 75-85%. This is an estimate but I’m sure the reality is somewhere thereabout. Considering these two factors there is a collapse of Adex and also that CPRP for news has been strong. News, I would say has not fared too badly because in week 1 of lockdown according to the records of TAM. It lost only 1% compared to 17% that the total TV Industry lost. In the 7th week of lockdown, news channels lost 16% compared to 33% loss by the TV industry as a whole. In a way, the market has recognized the performance of news television.”  

According to Balsara, this year will definitely be the year of news. “COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon and it affects human life across the globe and thus news will continue to be consumed the world over”, he stated. 

He is certain that news channels will benefit substantially in terms of viewership. However, how this converts into advertising dollars will follow a “wait-and-watch” game. 

Balsara also added that news channels have not shown as much hunger as compared to others. “Other channels have been reducing their rates and are trying to grab a larger share in the Adex pie. News channels will need to fight for their share of the pie”, he advised. 

Talking about the fragmentation of news channels Balsara commented, “It is a major problem among news channels. Even in English news channels, we have as many as 12 channels, which is one too many. There's not much that can be done about fragmentation because we live in a free country.”

Balsara shared four key factors that news content managers focus on: “Firstly, offer varied content to various viewership groups including children, which can be information and knowledge-based. Add softer human stories which will be more interesting. Curate content for Non-Primetime viewership and lastly, concentrate on female viewership on news channels and curate content for them accordingly.”  

In terms of sustaining their viewership, Balsara says, “News channels haven't been able to master the concept of reach except for a few major events. They have gained a lot during this pandemic but they will have to find a way to sustain this when the industry begins to come back to normal.” 

Sharing his views on regional news channels, Balsara remarked, “Several regional news channels are doing much better than the Hindi and English news channels. The regional news platforms have been on media plans for many brands and they will continue to be important from an advertisement point of view.” 

Signing off, Balsara concluded, "Television pricing will always remain dynamic and I have no doubt about that. News channels will have to think about some innovative steps to retain this habit. I think it should be possible for news channels to retain their viewership because 7 weeks is enough to form a habit of consuming news on a daily basis.”

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