The good old television continues to be amongst the most aspirational household items in the country with a total TV viewership growth by 9 percent in 2020 compared to 2019 while the average time spent increased to 4 hours 2 minutes daily in 2020 from 3 hours 42 minutes in 2019.
As the pandemic forced people to stay confined to their homes, the lockdown made viewers turn to their favourite mode of entertainment and news i.e. television. TV played a significant role in keeping people connected with the outside world during the lockdown. Consequently, TV viewership witnessed a growth after March 2020.
Over the last few years in India, regional content viewership has seen a massive rise with consumers attracted to their televisions. Regional language content has emerged as a key growth driver for TV viewership over the past few years, thanks to its rising availability and popularity among viewers. The beauty of India is in its diversity, there are 22 national languages and over 1,300 dialects spoken, so much so that every 100 km the dialect, culture, tradition, clothing, eating habits and beliefs change. Indians have embraced this diversity for centuries and the world looks at it in awe. This pluralism has presented a huge opportunity for media and entertainment platforms that have been offering content in regional languages. While OTT platforms have just begun to realise the potential of regional content, linear networks have leveraged it for a long time. Nearly every broadcast network in the general entertainment category has forayed into regional markets to tap their potential. A large number of them have been successful in their endeavours.
There are states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and West Bengal wherein the regional languages channels already been established. Some of the regional languages whose channels have witnessed a massive surge in viewership are Bihar/Jharkhand, Assam/Northeast and Odisha. TV households in these states witnessed double-digit growth in 2020. As per the latest Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India TV Universe Estimates 2020, the three states recorded 23 percent, 14 percent, and 13 percent, growth in TV households respectively, resulting in an overall increase in viewership as well. In line with the pattern of regional growth of the population, TV viewership has grown more in these three states. Bihar/Jharkhand, Assam/Northeast and Odisha have witnessed a higher growth in TV households and viewership compared to other Hindi Speaking Markets (HSM). The TV population in Odisha is growing at a swift pace. TV penetration has witnessed a jump of 72 percent in between the last two censuses. As per the BARC universe estimate, Odisha is among the fastest growing TV markets. This increase in TV households in these markets will open up new opportunities for content creators, broadcasters and brands.
There are some popular channels across all the regional channels, but it’s said that the new tariff regime introduced by TRAI will deliver a blow to the paid regional channels compared to those of FTA channels. If you look at the pricing of individual regional channels, they cost up to Rs 22 per month which is very high compared to what consumers got in the past. As per various experts, the new tariff regime will likely affect the viewership of paid regional channels compared to the FTA channels as they come at nominal fix charges per month. Talking about the penetration in rural areas, with the allowance of 100 FTA channels in the base pack, the subscribers will in all probability first choose all their free channels and then add select pay channels. In such a situation, subscribers are likely to let go of a few regional pay channels as the FTA selection will be enough for them with the base pack.
Language market is where growth is coming from, and it will hold in the future. Indian audiences are more than willing to consume content in their own vernacular languages. Rural and regionalisation will continue trending in the coming years.