Internet lockdown: TV news reach likely to see 20% surge in last fortnight of 2019

According to industry heads, an increasing number of people also watched news on TV during this period because of the content

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published: Dec 31, 2019 7:56 AM  | 4 min read
TV news

The last two weeks of 2019 saw massive disruption of internet services across North and North East India. Most of UP faced an internet shutdown due to protests over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizenship (NRC). This led to digital news providers seeing a slump in numbers.

But did this digital news vacuum lead to a surge in viewership for TV news channels?

According to some broadcasters, the numbers stand a chance to reflect a surge of up to 15-20 per cent, given the uptick in television news consumption.

What category of news consumers switched to TV in the last two weeks?

According to Ashish Sehgal, Chief Growth Officer - Ad Sales, ZEEL, “Internet lost all its viewers, who consume content on the go in areas, where there were disrupted internet services. This entire crowd switched to TV for their dose of news. It is important to know that this number is not small. What made this crowd, which is mostly millennial, move to TV was also content that this specific consumer category was interested in.”

This surge in traffic could easily push television news viewership numbers by up to 20 per cent, he added.

Interestingly, as Sehgal pointed out, it was not just the poor internet services but rather the content that got an increasing number of people to watch news on TV.

Sharing a different view on the surge in TV viewership was Vivek Srivastava, President - Strategy, Times Network. “Mobile internet and television service are two different needs. News consumption on internet is largely to catch headlines, while television news consumption is largely for in-depth coverage, analysis and informed opinions. So while there would certainly be a spike that will be visible, this would largely be due to the importance of the event rather than interruption in internet services,” he said.

The absence of BARC data for the fortnight has only added to the talks about TV viewership numbers. Due to an impact on data collection in select states, BARC deferred the release of Week 51 data for all regions and states. This will now be released together with data for Week 52.

A look at the numbers for Week 50 shows that Hindi news in the urban and rural category saw a drop in numbers for viewership in the age group of 15+. For instance, in this category Aaj Tak stood at 105066000 impressions against 113659000 in the previous week. Similarly, News18 India that clocked 89856000 impressions in Week 49 garnered 85911000 impressions in Week 50. This fall in numbers for Hindi news is expected to pick up in the last fortnight.

In English news (urban and rural category; age group of 22+), Republic TV picked up from 571000 impressions in Week 49 to 589000 impressions in Week 50. Times Now climbed from 422000 impressions in Week 49 to 508000impressions in Week 50. Meanwhile, India Today stood at 259000 impressions in Week 49 and touched 265000 impressions in Week 50. This trend in uptick in impressions is expected to grow further with more news being consumed in the fortnight in discussion.

According to a senior industry official, it is the entire ecosystem that is responsible for viewership numbers.

If numbers have to go up it happens so due to an increase in the consumption of content and not because of the unavailability of a certain medium. However, it is certain that interrupted internet services turned several internet news consumers to TV who can together with TV news loyals push the viewership numbers from Week 51 and Week 52 by 20 per cent, he explained.

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