Public sector broadcaster Prasar Bharati’s Doordarshan (DD) Network, which has been battling the onslaught of private channels over the past few decades, saw 16 percent rise in viewership in 2019. What is more interesting is that audience aged between 2 and 21 years have seen the sharpest rise.
The growth in viewership was mainly led by the growing popularity of DD Network’s English news channel DD India, which grew 63 percent over the previous year, according to the data collated and analysed by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India — the industry stakeholders’ body that measures viewership data.
According to BARC’s ‘What India Watched 2019’ report, while DD viewership grew for all age groups, the category that witnessed the maximum growth, compared to 2018, was between 2 and 21 years, clocking a 21 percent jump. The elderly, too, continued to watch DD — those aged above 61 years clocked a 20 percent year-on-year (YoY) growth in viewership (in terms of viewing minutes).
DD Network’s total viewership increased from 492 billion minutes in 2018 to 573 billion minutes in 2019, up 16 percent, the BARC data showed.
In the last three decades, the rise in the number of satellite television (TV) channels has fragmented the TV market, but DD continued to have a dedicated audience, felt experts.
“DD has a pan-Indian reach and has a loyal audience in the hinterland, where it has dedicated regional languages and Hindi channel audience. The new tariff order that came in February last year, too, did not dent viewership,” said a Mumbai-based media analyst.
Among the 24 DD channels measured by BARC India, the viewership of its English news channel DD India grew 63 percent over the previous year, while that of DD Kisan gained 48 percent. In the English news space, DD India contributes to 22 percent of the entire English genre viewership.
DD India, a channel from 1995, was repositioned in 2019 as a full-fledged English news channel for the global audience (on the lines of BBC World News) in 2019. This was part of a broader strategy to revamp the overall DD Network.
The Union Cabinet approved funds worth Rs 1,000-odd crore to the public broadcaster in 2019.
DD Network’s key channels include DD National (general entertainment), DD News (Hindi and English), DD India (English news), DD Sports, DD Kisan (agricultural infotainment), the regional language channels like DD Bangla, DD Girnar, DD Malayalam, etc.
In terms of viewing minutes, the Hindi speaking market saw 16 percent rise in viewership YoY in 2019, while the southern market saw an 18 percent jump, and the overall India viewership growth was at 16 percent.
Commenting on the overall trend of what India watched in 2019, Sunil Lulla, chief executive officer of BARC India, said, “TV viewership has grown 38 percent over the past four years. Each household watches five hours, 11 minutes of TV every day, and as many as 222 million individuals tune in to primetime TV at any given minute. With over 100 million homes in India yet to get a TV set, growth continues to be ahead of us.” In 2019, BARC India measured 634 channels, which generated 48.4 trillion TV viewing minutes and 1.59 billion seconds of advertising.
Lulla added, “Elections, Indian Premier League, and the ICC Cricket World Cup were some of the year’s mega TV events and there were significant spikes in viewership of news and movies in southern languages. A highlight of the year was the growth of sports coverage in regional languages.”
Nearly 863 million individuals had access to TV in the country in 2019 and on average, a user spent three hours and 42 minutes watching TV. A total of 11,525 advertisers promoted their products and services on TV, translating into 1.59 billion seconds of advertising, BARC noted.
Meanwhile, the government has plans to convert some of the channels originating from northeastern centres like Kohima, Agartala, Shillong, etc, that have been placed on DD FreeDish, which is a free-to-air direct-to-home platform of Prasar Bharati with effect from March last year, into 24-hour channels. Prasar Bharati is also taking measures to not only improve the quality of content (capacity-building of content producers, training the technical and programming staff), but also enhance visibility on social media.