Why news is set to stay ahead in the numbers game post COVID

Industry bigwigs say news channels will sustain the surge in viewership for the next few quarters with consistency in quality content being the key

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Apr 27, 2020 6:41 PM
TV news

The concept of prime time has almost become fluid for Indian households. Locked in their homes, people are watching news on TV round the clock boosting media consumption patterns and viewership numbers for channels in the category. So much so, that news viewership saw a spike of 195% in Week 15 as compared to the numbers before the Covid outbreak.

According to the latest BARC-Nielsen report, Week 15 saw a record growth in viewership, with even business news registering an 82% spike. But is this burgeoning growth sustainable? What are broadcasters doing to keep the numbers consistent?

Looks like broadcasters already have a plan in place.

For Vivek Srivastava, President - Strategy, Times Network, continuing to deliver accurate information is the key. “There is a significant increase in news viewership during the lockdown period. The increase is coming across the day and primetime. We take this as a responsibility to ensure that only verified and accurate news gets to our viewers during this adversity, so that they are empowered to take the right decisions for themselves and their families.”

But what happens once the lockdown phase is over? Will viewers continue to remain hooked to news channels?

“In the post-lockdown period, there will be an even bigger need to inform and educate our viewers, as Covid-19 will alter the way we live and the way we run our businesses. It will be critical for premium networks like us to arm our viewers with the right facts as they slowly move towards normalcy. I see this surge in viewership to be sustained for the next few quarters,” added Srivastava.

Coming to Week 15 numbers for the English TV category, while Republic TV has recorded 1755000 impressions, India Today Television has touched 1031000 impressions and Times Now is at 815000 impressions. In the Hindi news genre, Aaj Tak has clocked 350766000 impressions, while ABP News has achieved a huge reach with 267044000 impressions.

According to ABP CEO Avinash Pandey, TV consumption has reached a historic juncture as news channels have been helping viewers cruise through these difficult times by keeping them well-informed and engaged.

“No doubt, this viewership is relative as people are homebound right now and sustaining these numbers is going to be the biggest challenge of all. Considering the unprecedented ramifications of this health disaster, something we have not seen in generations, we surely cannot go back to the old normal in an instant. Nor are we certain what exactly the hallmark of the new normal will be - whether the pent up demand among viewers will continue to brew or simply fade away,” Pandey explained.

ABP News, according to BARC (TG-NCCS 2+, Mkt – All India, Cuml Reach in Cr, Wk 12-15’20), has reached 31 crore Indians in the last 4 weeks.

Sharing more insights on the effect of Work From Home being the new norm, a senior media analyst said: “We have to understand that even when the total lockdown is lifted, there will be a significant number of people who would continue to work from home. So in the near future, some bit of the spike will continue. But when studios open and GEC productions resume this number will go down. However, the viewership numbers are expected to remain much above the pre-Covid figures.”

Consistency in providing quality content can keep the numbers afloat, he added.

“At ANN, our goal shall remain to constantly innovate and focus on the needs and concerns of our viewers, an approach deeply entrenched in our values as well as strategy. And we are hoping for rosier projections as we proceed,” Pandey said.

Ashish Sehgal, Chief Growth Officer, Advertisement Revenue, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd believes news channels will continue to see huge gains compared to the pre-COVID times. “TV news viewership has gone up mainly because of two factors during the lockdown - one being the constant need for information and the other being lack of fresh content on entertainment channels and sports channels. There will be a drop in news channel viewership when the lockdown is lifted but channels will improvise and innovate to retain the viewers. If the news channels manage to retain even 50% of the viewers there will be huge gains as compared to pre-COVID times,” he asserted.

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