Confinement at home has families turning to their trusted TV set: Prathyusha Agarwal

Guest Column: The Chief Consumer Officer of ZEEL analyses the factors that are driving the spike in global TV viewership amid the coronavirus crisis

e4m by Prathyusha Agarwal
Updated: Mar 26, 2020 3:44 PM  | 5 min read
TV viewership

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the world’s population coming to terms with the new normal of ‘social distancing’ and ‘work-from-home’! In an effort to reduce the spread of the pandemic, the entertainment industry has borne severe collateral damage with malls and movie theatres shut and outdoor events cancelled due to restrictions on public gatherings. This puts the onus on the ubiquitous television set, a vital part of every home, to take over the roles of the informer, entertainer, and stress-reliever for the entire family and society at large.

 Global Rise in TV Viewership

As countries around the world are enforcing measures for people to stay indoors, the dependence on television as a source of entertainment has seen a surge, reflecting in viewership data from across countries. According to Nielsen, South Korea saw a 17% spike in viewership between the 2nd and 4th week of February, after COVID-19 cases were first reported in early February. Historical evidence from the U.S. also indicates that we could anticipate further consumption growth. On the weekend of January 23, 2016, New York experienced a severe snowstorm grinding the city to a halt and as a result of people staying indoors, total TV usage rose by 45% over the previous weekend[1].

 Viewership Growth in the Indian Context – Early Trends

As the pandemic has forced Indians to stay indoors, the latest BARC data for the week ending 13th March shows that the consumption of television content has increased by over 40 million minutes[2], leading to a 5% jump in total viewership[3] over the previous week. Considering the data reflects a period where most institutions, government and private, were still running, this increase becomes significant and is only anticipated to rise further in the coming weeks. With schools and colleges shutting down even before businesses, weekly average time spent on TV has seen a spike of 74 minutes among Kids and 51 minutes among Males compared to the previous 4 weeks[4]. Confinement at home has families turning to their trusted television set for being connected to the world in a period of social isolation.

 Shifting Behaviour in TV Consumption

The effect can be seen more prominently in the shift in traditional consumption patterns with the predominantly male workforce staying put at home. Daytime viewership among kids and males over weekdays has seen a sharp rise of 26% and 15% in TV viewing respectively[5]. Constant curiosity and a hunger to keep up with developments around the novel coronavirus has led to a 15% increase in viewership for news channels among males[6]. Similarly, viewership of movies has also increased by 13% in the same time[7], cementing its position as both, an entertainer and a window to the world.

 A Trusted and Effective Medium for Mass Outreach

Significantly, the trust of audiences in TV is paving the way for mass outreach, with Government organizations and brands leveraging the platform to educate people in remote locations on hygiene and other preventive measures and to counter fake news. Even while people turn to social media for bite-sized updates, it is television that surpasses any platform when it comes to reach, especially in a country like India where smartphone and internet penetration lies at just 26%[8] and 35%3 while TV stands tall at 76%[9]. Also, the regional might of television with the variety of channels in various languages help carry messages to audiences across the country in their bhasha and boli.

This is critical because the impact of the pandemic could be far-reaching, going beyond what is currently visible and the message needs to be delivered to every corner of the country. On the evening of 19th March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself took to the television platform to enter living rooms across the country, sensitizing Indians about the pandemic and the measures to fight it as a society. Going forward, the role of the television will assume even more significance.

 An Industry Coming Together to Inform, Entertain and Reassure

The media industry from across the world has come together to battle this pandemic and provide relief in the most challenging of times. In India, despite the order to temporarily stop original production, broadcasters are well prepared with vast content libraries. At ZEE, we have over 260,000 hours of television content and over 4800 movie titles that will ensure viewers are entertained with the best of content during such times. Keeping in mind that the average Indian watches nearly 4 hours of TV every day[10], to view all that content even once, it would take us more than 180 years[11]!

 The humble television acts as the glue holding families, societies, and nations together. It brings entertainment, trusted information, and reassurance to people, just like a family member who is always there for you without seeking anything in return. We hope that very soon we shall overcome this crisis collectively and put it behind us.

 After all, the show must go on!


[2] BARC, Weekly Viewing Minutes, All India U+R, 2+, Week 10 over Week 9, 2020

[3] BARC, Total Viewership, All India U+R, 2+, Week 10 over Week 9, 2020

[4] BARC, Weekly Time Spent, All India U+R, 2-14 and Males, Week 10 over Weeks 6-9, 2020

[5] BARC, Viewership, All India U+R, 2-14 and Males, 0700-1700 hours

[6] BARC, Viewership, All India U+R, Males, 0700-1700 hours, News Channels

[7] BARC, Viewership, All India U+R, Males, 0700-1700 hours, Movie Channels

[8] Pg.38

[9] IRS 2019 Q3, data for accessed in last 1 month

[10] What India Watched 2019, BARC

[11] 4800 movie titles assumed to be 12,000 hours of content (2.5 hours per movie)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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