Demonetisation doubles TV news audience

BY SHUMA RAHA| IN Media Business | 08/12/2016
The viewership of Hindi TV channels has shot up dramatically as nervous people remain glued to their TVs for the latest on demonetisation
SHUMA RAHA reports

 

As in every other area of national life, demonetisation has had an impact on the media as well. Data from television rating measurement agency BARC India show that the viewership of leading Hindi news channels such as Aaj Tak, India TV, ABP News and Zee News has gone up by a staggering 100 per cent in most cases in the weeks post-demonetisation (Fig1 and 2).

Consider the numbers in the period between October 17 and November 8, the day the Prime Minister announced the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes, and that between November 9 and November 25, when the cash crunch began to bite.

The average impressions '000 on Aaj Tak soared from 15,684 to 31,727; it went up from 13,686 to 25,474 on India TV; from 11,520 to 23,824 on ABP News and from 11,338 to 22,669 on Zee News (viewership data for India News is not available for the November 9-25 period and is hence being left out of the analysis.)

 

Average viewership of the top five Hindi news channels from 17/18 October to 8 November 2016.

SOURCE : BARC India

 

 

TG : 15+ HSM

 

 

PERIOD : 17th OCT – 8th NOV 2016 Average Impressions '000

 

 

 

CHANNELS

AVERAGE

 

Aaj Tak

15,684

 

India TV

13,686

 

India News

12,358

 

ABP News

11,520

 

Zee News

11,338

 

 

 

Average viewership of the top five Hindi news channels from 9 Nov till date 

 

SOURCE : BARC India

 

 

TG : 15+ HSM

 

 

PERIOD : 9th NOV – 25th NOV 2016 Average Impressions '000

 

 

 

CHANNELS

AVERAGE

 

Aaj Tak

31,727

 

India TV

25,474

 

ABP News

23,824

 

Zee News

22,669

 

News 24

16,347

 

 

Evidently, the phenomenal rise in viewership over such a long period took place because people have been hooked to the news about demonetisation and its fallout. Channel editors such as Supriya Prasad, Managing Editor of the TV Today Network which  Aaj Tak  belongs to, say that the demonetisation announcement  impacted every household in the country with people relying on news channels for getting regular updates. "In this period of many versions, it becomes our duty to report unbiased news that adds clarity and perspective," he says.  As Milind Khandekar, Managing Editor at ABP News, adds, “Possibly in a long time we have seen a story which has directly affected each individual in some way or other. Hence, people could be tuning in to get information or understand impact on their life.”

 

 

What is also interesting is that in the periods under consideration, viewership of several Hindi general entertainment channels (GEC) slipped. That seems logical because if people are watching news more, they have less time to soak up family melodramas.

After all, when people have to line up in front of banks and ATMs for hours to access their own money, when people drop dead in those serpentine queues, when people are said to be losing their livelihoods in the cash crisis - news probably feels far more visceral than any strident soap opera the GECs have to offer.

In the period between October 17 and November 8 and between November 9 and November 25, average impressions on Colors fell from 96,582 to 92,564; from 90,978 to 90,430 on Star Plus; and from 68,412 to 60,785 on Zee Anmol. Zee TV’s viewership went up marginally - from 66,577 to 67,022. (Sony Pal is the only one among the top few Hindi GECs that actually registered a noticeable rise between the two time periods - from 63,390 to 65,422.)

 

Average viewership of top five Hindi GEC channels for each of these two time periods.

SOURCE : BARC India

 

 

 

TG : 4+ HSM

 

 

 

PERIOD: 17th OCT – 8th NOV 2016 Average Impressions '000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHANNELS

AVERAGE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colors

96,582

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STAR Plus

90,978

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zee Anmol

68,412

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zee TV

66,577

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sony Pal

63,390

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCE : BARC India

 

 

TG : 4+ HSM

 

 

PERIOD: 9th NOV – 25th NOV 2016 Average Impressions '000

 

 

 

CHANNELS

AVERAGE

 

Colors

92,564

 

STAR Plus

90,430

 

Zee TV

67,022

 

Sony Pal

65,422

 

Zee Anmol

60,785

 

 

 

Admittedly, the decline in GEC viewership is nowhere near as spectacular as the rise in Hindi news viewership. But it is a noteworthy fallout of the spike in the consumption of news in the wake of demonetisation.

So were the Hindi news channels doing anything special to attract viewers during this period? Not really. All of them closely followed, and reported, the dizzying, and contradicting, volley of directives emanating from the government regarding the exchange and deposit of the banned notes.

They debated the impact on black money which the government claimed was stashed in currency notes. They gave space to the political voices  - an Arun Jaitley or a Venkaiah Naidu extolling Modi’s move and a Rahul Gandhi or a wrathful Mamata Banerjee slamming it. They showed the thrilling spectacle of old notes having been dumped in places. And all reported widely on the way the cash crunch was squeezing the common people.

Of course, in their enthusiasm to sex up the government’s move, some channels such as  Zee News did report fantasy stories, notably the one about there being a GPS nano chip embedded in the new Rs 2000 notes that would allow them to be tracked. But on the whole, the focus was on both the news as well as the narrative around demonetisation: how it was affecting people and how experts of all stripes were defending or criticising it.

Worldwide, big news events always give a huge fillip to television viewership. To take just one recent example, CNN clocked a record viewership of 13.3 million on election night in the US on November 8. (Ironically, it was also the day Modi announced demonetisation.) This is as opposed to CNN’s overall average ratings of only 723,000 for the month of October 2016.

What is remarkable about demonetisation, however, is that it has kept people riveted to news channels, not for a day or a few days, but for weeks. The reason for that is it continues to cause large scale disruption to people’s lives as they grapple with being left cashless. And with the fast-changing diktats coming from the government.

For example, first you could exchange Rs 4000 worth of old notes for new till December 30; then the limit was raised to Rs 4500; then it was slashed to Rs 2000, with the caveat that you would be marked with indelible ink if you did go for an exchange. Finally, it was decreed that no exchange of notes would take place after November 24.

There have been a confusing array of exemptions and limitations too, some scrapped soon after being introduced. All this, together with the government trying to bludgeon people into e-transactions, poses a very real need for them to be glued to their TV sets for the latest information, the latest bulletin, on demonetisation.

“There is a lot of uncertainty, a lot of anxiety now, particularly among the elderly who don’t know how to do digital transactions,” says Dr J.R. Ram, consultant psychiatrist, Apollo Hospital, Kolkata. “I’ve seen it among my patients, many of whom have suffered relapses because they don’t want to spend money to buy their medicines. So the need to know the latest news on demonetisation has become very urgent.”

In the coming weeks, perhaps the viewership of Hindi news channels will settle down to its customary sedate levels. But that will happen if, and only if, the unprecedented domino effect of demonetisation is finally halted.

 

 

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