TV news viewership soaring by the day, election season will add to numbers: Experts

It is interesting how even regional channels like ABP Ananda got unprecedented traction, says Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP News Network

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Even with the advent of digital platforms, news channels unlike the popular belief haven’t lost their importance, say industry experts. The last one year has been a year of tremendous growth for news channels in terms of viewership. 

On several occasions, like on March 1 – the day IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned to India from Pakistan – the viewership of several news channels surpassed that of general entertainment channels. This trend is expected to grow further this year, thanks to the election season which is just round the corner.

“It has been a very news year. News channels that are credible, trustworthy and accepted as a brand that people love got their share of success from that. Brands like ours leveraged on the year being an eventful one and it is interesting how even regional channels like ABP Ananda got unprecedented traction,” said Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP News Network.

According to Pandey, the coming year will be even bigger with the poll season getting interesting by the day. “Polls are going to be bigger than any other event this year, even than the IPL. The counting day for instance will be the record-breaking day for news channels. Polls this year will be the biggest match played and news channels will gain from it. There will be at least 15-20 per cent growth in revenue. Even if we compare the number of advertisements to revenue, growth will be anywhere between 30 and 35 per cent,” Pandey added.

Coming to the numbers, according to BARC, the gross impression in 000s for Aaj Tak in Week 8 of February during the Pulwama attack stood at 16,92,976 and the following week when Abhinandan returned to India it was 22,66,082. In the same two weeks, ABP News clocked 3,02,678 and 4,62,693 gross impression in 000s. 

Other news channels too followed suit. Republic Bharat for instance stood at 1,41,681 gross impressions in the 8th week of February and in the 9th week it grossed 2,19,345 impressions. 

“News is the biggest form of entertainment in the country after Bollywood and cricket in India and this year it is going to top the chart leaving the other two behind. On days of tension between India and Pakistan or the arrest of a movie star, people always turn to news channels because on such occasions news is where most of the entertainment is,” said a leading media analyst who did not wish to be named.

For media agencies it is only but natural to have news channels peak in terms of viewership given the amount of news that has taken place in the recent times. 

Explaining how viewership peaked with Pulwama attacks, Anita Nayyar, CEO - India & South East Asia, Havas Media Group, said: “An India-Pakistan match gets mad viewership. It was a war-like situation with strikes followed by the captivity of Abhinandan. It was also a very high tension time for both the countries. It is nothing new, it has happened in the past. Whenever a topical event happens, there has been a surge of viewership.” 

“As it is these channels have niche viewership. Given that the whole country was living on the edge watching what was happening, it is very logical that the Hindi news channels saw higher viewership. Looking forward, the elections will happen back to back and that's a huge genre which also adds to aggressiveness of news channels,” Nayyar added.

So, what were the highlights of 2018 and the two and half months of the new year that made news channels score high on viewership? Other than the Pulwama attack and Abhinandan’s capture and return, the other incidents which hogged the maximum limelight were Salman Khan’s black buck case verdict in the 14th week of 2018, followed by Karnataka elections in the 29th week of the last year. This was followed by the no-confidence motion in the 29th week of 2018 and Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s demise and the assembly poll results of six states.  

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