Work from home boosts TV viewership in India

Prime Time viewership has normalized, but day-time viewing is up | BARC

Even as evening TV viewership has fallen back to its pre-COVID levels after the COVID-19 lockdown, overall TV viewership continues to remain elevated due to higher levels of daytime consumption in the era of work-from-home.

According to numbers disclosed by Sunil Lulla, CEO of TV viewership measurement agency BARC, TV viewership in India has gone back to pre-COVID levels as far as the 6 PM to 12 AM slot (prime time) is concerned. Compared to a value of 183 in January, prime time viewership rose to 202 during the lockdown, but has again fallen back to 183 for the latest week (Aug 22 to 28).

However, day-time viewership continues to remain elevated, possibly because work-from-home allows employees to catch up on TV during the day, said Sunil Lulla at the ‘Future of Video India’ conference organized by Asia Video Industry Association on Thursday.

Viewership numbers for day-time slots (6 AM to 6 PM) used to be 81 in January, it continues to remain 38% higher at 111 as of late August, Lulla said.

Even during the peak of the lockdown, it was day-time viewing that showed a sharp increase of 80% compared to pre-COVID levels, while prime time viewership increased only by 10%, and this 10% has now been given up as people have gone back to their regular routines during evenings.


News & Kids continue to see elevated interest | BARC

Besides the time factor, Genres also showed clear patterns of ups and downs corresponding to the lock-down.

The biggest gainers durnig the lockdown was, as expected, news channels.

The percentage of time spent on news channels tripled from 7% to 21% during the peak of the lockdown.

Another category that saw an increase in consumption during the lock-down was movies. The share of movie channels in overall time spent rose to 26% from 23% before the lockdown.

The 17 percentage point gain (14 in news and 3 in movies) in these two genres primarily came at the expense of general entertainment channels, whose share fell from 52% to 39% — a drop of 13 percentage points.

However, the shares of most of the genres have come back to normal in the post lockdown period.

Entertainment channels are back at 53%, while movies have fallen back to 23%. Only two genres continue to see some lingering benefit — again likely related to work-from-home: News and kids.

News, which was at 7% of overall TV consumption and rose to 21% during the lockdown, is still at 9% as of late August.

Kids content is at 8% post-lockdown, while it was at 7% both before the lockdown as well as during the lockdown. This is explained by more time on the hands of the kids as they ‘study from home’, Lulla said.


People in cities spend more time on TV than those in villages | BARC

Another interesting trend is that the increase in TV viewership is primarily in the ‘mega cities’, as Lulla calls them, and among men.

Against an average of 4 hours 38 minutes of TV time in the megacities before the pandemic, consumption jumped to 6 hours 2 minutes per week during the lockdown.

Even in the post-lockdown stage, while rural audiences seem to have gone back to their regular routines, people in mega cities continue to find more time to spend in front of the TV. They show a 9% increase in the time spent per week (5 hours 3 mins) as of August end. In comparison, the all-India average is just 4 hours and 9 mins as of August end.

Elevated consumption is also visible among men (at all locations), again indicating the work-from-home effect.

The total number of minutes spent by males in India in front of their TVs had risen by 48% during the lockdown. However, even after the lock-down, it remains elevated by 18%.

Viewed from another angle, men used to account for about 49.27% of all TV viewing in India as of January. During the peak of the lockdown (late March-early April), this jumped to 51.11%. As of August, it continues to remain above the long-time average, at 49.66%.

TV viewing continues to remain higher post lockdown | BARC

The higher amount of time spent by audiences in front of the TV also translated to an increase in the number of channels viewed, from 16/week before the lock-down to 23 during the lock-down and 18 at present.