Devotional channels see over 5-fold increase in viewership from 2016 to 2018 

The number of ad insertions, as per BARC data, has also risen with major advertisers for devotional channels being Patanjali Ayurveda Ltd, Wipro Ltd, Dish India TV and MDH Ltd

devotional

The viewership and ad insertions for devotional channels have seen a considerable increase in the 2016-2018 period, shows data from Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC).

In 2016, the number of devotional channels watermarked were just 3 with average weekly impressions of 22.2 million, as per BARC data, but the number rose to 11 with an average weekly impression of 97 million in 2017, and in 2018 there were 11 watermarked channels with a weekly impression of 119.8 million. 

The channels taken into consideration were Bhakti TV, CVR OM Spiritual, Disha TV, Divya, Hindu Dharmam, Prarthana, SAI TV, Sanskar, SVBC, and Vedic. 

Speaking on the rise in viewership of devotional channels, Arun S Nair, Vice President - Sales & Marketing (South) Insight Media City said, “The viewership rise can be attributed to two reasons. The distribution of the devotional channels has played a major role in improving their reach dramatically. Also, the deep pockets and their connect with service providers has enabled channel operators to be available on all the platforms.”

“The emotional connect with one’s religion is also one of the reasons behind the increase in viewership. In today’s fast-paced life, it is very important to connect with our culture and to gain knowledge about the customs and rituals. The devotional channels have succeeded in that by providing relevant content,” added Nair. 

According to Vineet Sodhani, CEO, Spatial Access, devotional channels have grown since the Free-to-Air (FTA) boom in 2016 when many new channels were launched and many that were paid turned FTA.

“Part of the growth also happened because BARC increased the sample and covered rural or semi-urban areas better which helped in the viewership growth of many such channels,” said Sodhani. 

Apart from the viewership rise, the 2016-2018 period has also witnessed a rise in total ad insertions. In 2016, the total ad insertions for devotional channels were 1,75,681; in 2017 the it jumped to 2,85,971, and in 2018 it was 3,88,273. 

The major advertisers for the devotional channels include Patanjali Ayurveda Ltd, Wipro Ltd, Dish India TV and MDH Ltd. 

On how advertising in devotional channels helps brands, Prateek Kumar, CEO & MD, NeoNiche said, “The content of devotional channels caters to the robust spiritual community across the globe, which experiences among other things, the live-streaming of some of the most visited religious places in India. They also participate in the actual 'darshan' through 360-degree videos. These channels explore the spiritual and devotional space by providing unique experiences to viewers through e-sermons, e-darshans and online offerings.”

According to BARC data, there is a growth in viewership of programmes related to yoga, meditation and spirituality, Kumar said. “There has been an increase in the number of urban youth and international followers of yoga and meditation tuning into these devotional channels. Most broadcasters and advertisers are becoming aware of this trend and brands in the area of personal care & hygiene, food & beverages, healthcare, health & lifestyle are latching on to this opportunity. What’s a better way to sell a Patanjali product to a global audience than through a TVC placed right before or after a yoga programme,” he asked.

According to Sachin Kumar, Founder, Bottle Openers, “Unlike GEC watching habits, the mindset of the audience of spiritual channels is completely belief-oriented and hence brands falling into categories like natural or herbal or Ayurvedic will have higher acceptability. One of the biggest successes we have seen in the past is Patanjali. Since spiritual channels are largely based on spiritual events, brands can turn the audience into advocates. Also, unlike millennials who get bored easily, this audience doesn't flip through channels and hence they tend to have higher receptiveness of the communication, which helps brands.” 

Talking about the other ways in which brands have been benefiting by placing ads in devotional channels, Prateek Kumar said: “Devotional channels offer a wide range of services for its audience like temple tourism, and access to japs, mantras, kathas, popular bhajans and holy books. Brands interested in target marketing, instead of trying to reach the mass market, can put their energy into connecting with a specific, defined group within that market. As per BARC, 77 per cent of TV viewers are in the age group of above 30. If segmented into right demographics, and psychographics and geography, it can help brands in cost-effective target marketing that will maximise the ROI on advertising budget since devotional channels are cheaper due to the waiver of broadcasting fee.”

Vinay Kanchan, Brand Storyteller, Innovation Catalyst and Author of ‘Sportivity’ says: “The ad rates offered by devotional channels are relatively economical. The clutter from other categories is a lot less. Brands advertising here have a stage where they can stand apart and make their point. Clients get ‘more blessings for their buck’ in a manner of speaking. Devotional channels help brands of a particular genre to truly engage their audiences. This association naturally makes sense for brands of  a certain kind, especially those with strong traditional Indian roots. 

"Consumers today expect their brands to mirror their own feelings and desires. Hence, for those spiritually inclined, seeing the brand on devotional channels they frequent only serves to strengthen bonds. This creates a deeper attachment which usually translates into sales. The opportunity also perhaps lies in creating specific narratives for these channels as they are unlike others in the media space in many respects. This makes sense because audiences are in an entirely different frame of mind when they switch to these channels.”

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