Television will remain the screen of the household

Guest Column: Sunil Lulla, CEO, BARC India, explains how COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that television is & will continue to cater to what Indians want to watch

e4m by Sunil Lulla
Updated: Dec 28, 2020 8:25 AM

COVID-19 is undoubtedly the single biggest news story of 2020. It played out like a tragic reality show on television screens. It also forced people to stay at home, which led to unprecedented spikes in content viewing across screens. Due to the lack of any original programming on GEC, genres like Movies, News, and Kids benefited in the 1st half of the year. People tuned in to the News genre during lockdown to stay abreast of the situation in the country and their own state. This led to a significant growth of the genre from 7% during Pre-Covid to a whopping 21%, with week 12 registering the highest ever viewership of 206 Bn Viewing Minutes!

All sectors bravely battled the COVID-19 crisis, but television viewing never really “suffered a lockdown”. Though advertising in April – June dropped by 26% compared to Q1 2020, it peaked to the highest ever Ad Volume of 38.7 Mn seconds in week 43, 2020.

We also witnessed the industry evolve to stay relevant and outlive the pandemic as the country stepped into its various phases of unlock. Many of the changes imbibed by organisations are bound to have a long-lasting effect.

The Wildcard – Classic Content

TV being the screen of the household and families being at home 24x7, they ended up spending much more time in front of the TV set, and Viewing minutes skyrocketed to 1.3 trillion from the pre-lockdown levels of 902 billion. With the entire family coming together, viewing habits changed dramatically as well. Television screens helped people connect with the outside world and cheered them with unlimited entertainment. The comeback of classic mythological shows, like Ramayana and Mahabharata, was a stellar move by Doordarshan, and this plugged the gaps due to the halt in original programming. While it helped the channel emerge as the #1 Network, it also made Ramayana the most-watched TV program in the world.

Another distinct shift in viewing pattern that we observed was a significant increase of 13.7% in non-prime time during the first half of 2020 as compared to 2019. Primetime viewership also grew by 3.6% during the same time period.

Advertising on TV reflected the pulse of business

While the viewership witnessed a peak, advertising on TV went down in the initial phase of the lockdown. This was inevitable given the disruption in supply chains. However, this period also threw up opportunities for several businesses which were reflected in the emergence of a whole new set of advertisers and brands among the top advertised on TV. Ad Volumes grew on the back of Social Ads and health and hygiene brands like Dettol, Lifebuoy, Harpic, Lizol, etc. The year also witnessed new entrants under the Education sector, especially E-education which understandably grew 5 times more during Aug-Oct this year compared to the same period last year.

The delayed 13th season of IPL continued to attract audiences. Surpassing the viewership of IPL 12 by 23% and a total viewership of 400 billion viewing minutes; advertising on the marquee event witnessed a 4% increase in ad volumes.

TV will remain the screen of the household

Along with higher television viewing, the Indian consumer also upped his appetite for OTT content. Consumption of streaming content grew significantly, as indicated by higher data consumption and an increase in mobile connections. The stay-at-home disruption caused by the pandemic, as well as the launch of several digital properties, gave a big fillip to the OTT sector.

There is great optimism about higher adoption of digital over the next few years. But irrespective of the medium, television is a relevant screen for the households, for the mass of India, effective in its reach and its larger screen messaging impact. If the evidence of lockdown consumption is any indication, the audience, the content that sticks, and the viewing behavior for OTT and TV, is very different and hence, both mediums will co-exist and thrive, riding on strong and relevant content. Television, however, will retain its pre-eminence. It will remain the primary screen of the household and the preferred medium to reach out to mass audiences.

BARC will continue to measure What India Watches

Even during the most stringent lockdown times, BARC India was able to accurately and diligently report WHAT INDIA WATCHES, circulating the “BARC Currency”, the barometer for advertisers, agencies, and broadcasters, to conduct and transact their business. Week on week, with clockwork regularity, this data went out. Thus, enabling all our stakeholders to continue with their business without disruptions.

In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that television is and will continue to cater to what Indians want to watch.

And BARC will steadfastly continue to accurately report “What India Watches” with the utmost integrity.

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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