BARC report uncovers seasonal nature and trends of TV viewing

Audience in south India consume maximum television throughout the year as visible from the high impressions in Total TV viewership

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Jun 27, 2018 12:00 PM  | 7 min read

Television consumption varies from season to season. BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council), the only rating body in India, has released its new research on seasonality and TV trends. It answers questions on how the quarter on quarter television viewership shape up, what are its implications, what are the viewership trends across zones and markets, etc.

Through this research, BARC explored the seasonal nature of television viewing by analyzing their robust viewership data over the past two years. This helped to uncover some trends and insights which may be valuable to the stakeholders in anticipating and formulating annual plans.

For the purpose of this analysis, BARC considered a target group of people belonging to the age group of 15+ years. The Kids TG was not considered to maintain consistency in analysis and factor out any effect of the Universe Update (2-4 yrs) on the viewership trends

Seasonal Trends

Looking at the ebbs and flows in the viewership trend line, it is evident that the TV viewing pattern remains consistent quarter on quarter, each year. Q2 (April-June) of the calendar year is traditionally the least performing quarter, as the viewership dips during this period. April-June are the peak summer months, and the onset of the holiday season owing to summer vacations in schools and colleges. Another possible explanation could be the increase in power cuts and load shedding during in the summers.

As the holiday season ends, viewership starts picking up in Q3 (July-September). The quarter witnessed a growth of 5 per cent in overall TV viewership from 2016 to 2017. This is the highest viewership growth across the four quarters, and may be an ideal time to hook viewers returning to television after a short hiatus, by debuting new content and programmes. Q4 (October-December) is the strongest quarter of the year with respect to TV viewership.

However, this quarter witnessed the least growth of 1 per cent in 2017 over the same quarter in 2016. A lot of special, festive programming occurs in this quarter in lieu of Diwali, Christmas, New Year, and hence viewership may be maxed out in this season.

There may be a great opportunity here for broadcasters to hook viewers on long weekends with a cohesive programming strategy spread across 3 – days which would compel the viewers to tune into television to watch the channel/ programme on all days of the long weekend.

Market Trends

All geographic zones- North, South, East and West exhibit similar TV viewing patterns round the year. Audiences in South India consume the maximum television throughout the year, as is visible from the high impressions contributed by the South zone to Total TV viewership across both years.

AP/ Telangana and TN/ Pondicherry have consistently been in the top three markets across all state markets in the country, along with Maharashtra/ Goa. High TV penetration in these states is also an important factor which may have driven high viewership in said markets.

TN/ Pondicherry market saw an increase in TV viewership in the latter half of 2016, on the back of ex-CM Jayalalitha’s health crisis and subsequent political unrest. This increase bumped up the all India viewership as well, indicating that viewership in this market is more likely to fluctuate with severity of events. North and West zones were observed to be at par with respect to TV viewership in 2016. While the viewership has shifted slightly, no significant change is observed in the viewing pattern.

External factors such as the weather or temperature were also considered for impact on TV viewership. To answer this, BARC made a unique attempt by mapping the average daily temperature with daily viewership data across 6 megacities - Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai. It was found that temperature and viewership have an inverse relationship. In winters/ cold weather, people stay indoors and watch TV, but in summers/ warm climate people would prefer stepping out and engaging in alternate activities for entertainment.

The cyclic pattern in television viewing could partly be explained by this environmental factor. As observed earlier, TV viewing is high in the 4th and 1st quarters, which are typically the autumn and winter months, but in the 2nd quarter (summer) the viewership dips and stays low. This has been the pulse of TV watching in India for the last 2 years, and perhaps previously as well.

Genre Trends

Looking at the trends across genres, multiple observations come to light.

GEC: The GEC genre appears to be the biggest genre on television with the highest share of viewership across the timeline. It is a relatively stable genre, with no major fluctuations across the year. Some of the spikes observed can be attributed to the airing of specific events, such as award shows & finale episodes of popular reality shows.

Movies: While looking at the Total TV viewership trend earlier, we had observed weekly growth in viewership on weekends. This growth seems to be fuelled by the Movie genre, which is also in keeping with the programming strategy of airing blockbuster movies and Premiers/ World TV Premiers on weekends. A distinct viewership peak is observed in this genre on 15 August across both years. A note-worthy rise in viewership in the genre is also observed between April-May 2017. This can be attributed specifically to the airing of a popular T20 cricket tournament on a broadcasting channel in the movie genre.

Kids: Since the Kids TG has not been considered in this analysis, one would expect the viewership for Kids channels to be lower. However, it is interesting to see that Kids genre continues to receive substantial viewership in comparison to the remaining genres. While some of these viewers may include the older teens, it is also indicative of co-viewership of the older groups along with the kids, as a large percentage (>90%) of TV households in India are single TV homes. In addition to Movies genre, the Kids genre too exhibits regular viewership spikes due to increased consumption of such channels on a weekend as opposed to a weekday.

Music, Youth & Infotainment: The Music genre has a similar viewership share as that of Kids genre among the 15+ audience. The genre seems to be growing with an upward linear trend. The Youth and Infotainment genres, are relatively smaller in comparison to the rest. While the Youth genre seems to be stable and consistent, the Infotainment genre exhibits a slightly downward trend line.

News genre is a highly event driven and dynamic genre. While it is a small genre, some massive spikes are seen across the timeline. All these spikes can be attributed to some major event or story that was being covered by news channels, as indicated in the graph. Some events lead to a higher spike in viewership due to their nature and impact

Sports is also a very dynamic and property driven genre. Maximum fluctuations can be seen in this genre across the timeline, based on the schedule of major sporting events. During the telecast of big ticket properties such as the T20 World Cup and the ICC Champions Trophy, the average viewership of the sports genre has surpassed the highest average viewership for GEC genre on a given day during the two-year period. This is evident from the viewership spikes during all cricket tournaments, especially when Team India is playing.

Daypart Trends

Looking at the historic day-part trends split by 3-hour time bands, it appears that the early Prime Time band (1800-2100 hrs) is the only time band which reflects seasonality in TV viewing, while all other time bands appear immune to it. The late prime time band (2100-2400 hrs) also exhibits seasonality. There is a visible drop in the viewership for this time band during Q2 (April-June) in both years, however the increase in the subsequent quarter is not as high as that of the previous time band.

In fact, it is interesting to note that the early and late Prime Time bands exhibit opposite growth trends, specifically in Q1 (Jan-Mar) and Q4 (Oct-Dec) each year. Since these are also the strongest quarters with respect to TV viewership, there may be a latent opportunity here to grow viewership by airing compelling content in the late prime time (2100-2400 hrs) time band.

Five unique dayparts exist in the average TV viewing day. The late morning (0900- 1200) and early afternoon (1200-1500) time bands can be thought of as a single time band, due to high similarity in their viewership patterns.

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