Beating The Challenges Of Online Video Content Television Viewership Rises In India

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What Netflix? Indians still love watching television; Indians remain invested in television sets. Even as an increasing number of people use mobile phones to watch videos, it does not seem to affect growth in television viewership in the country, which grew by 7.2 per cent, as compared to 2016, to 836 million people. While urban India saw a 4 per cent growth in ownership of TV sets, rural India saw a 10 per cent rise. The numbers are not evenly spread across the states.

Television ownership and TV viewership have both grown significantly in the last two years, as per Broadcast India, a survey by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India. The report finds that total TV households grew by 7.5%, rising from 183 million households in 2016 to 197 million households in 2018 till date. “My sense is, this number will continue to grow because we have huge headroom. I think the penetration will grow to 220-230 million homes in the next few years,” says Girish Menon, partner, KPMG India. The growth rate in TV homes in India is higher than the overall home ownership growth. The total number of homes according to the survey was 286 million in 2016 and it has grown to 298 million this year, securing a 4.2% growth. TV homes grew by 7.5% in the same period.

Rural India dominates TV ownership growth — in 2016, it had 99 million television households; that number is 109 million currently, securing a 10% growth. Menon believes that there are macroeconomic factors driving the growth of TV penetration in the rural market. “The income level among the poor has increased and with this, TV has reached a position where it becomes a necessity as well as an aspiration because everybody else has it,” he opines. The urban market, which is somewhat saturated now, grew by 4% over the last two years. The growth in rural TV ownership contributed to 13% growth in viewership while the urban TV owners-hip growth corresponded to 10% growth in overall TV viewership.

The total advertising pie is estimated to be Rs 69,346 crore in CY2018, according to GroupM’s This Year Next Yearreport, of which 18% is estimated to be spent on digital, 45% on TV, 26.6% on print and the remaining 10.4% on other mediums such as OOH, radio and cinema. “Television is a great product at a great price. It is tough to find so much content available at such an affordable price,” says Ashish Pherwani, partner, media and entertainment, EY India. “In some cases it is free; for example, the DD Freedish. So, I believe the demand will continue to grow.”

Contrary to common perception that rural India only consumes free-to-air (FTA) channels and hardly contributes to the average revenue per user (ARPU), the BARC India report finds that the viewership of high definition (HD) channels in rural areas grew by 37% over the last two years. “It is not correct to say that people in rural are not well-to-do. Rural viewers are willing to pay too. In the same vein, there is a lot of Freedish consumption happening in the urban market,” says Pherwani.

Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs), sports and movies genres have played a pivotal role in the growth of HD viewership. Overall high definition viewership grew by 20% in India. One can presume that TV sets are being bought to watch OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hotstar on big screens for a better experience. Sales of Amazon Fire Stick, a device that helps stream VOD content on TV, or even Chromecast devices indicate that people are indeed watching content on demand on bigger screens, but they might not be giving up on TV channels altogether. “As per reports, three hours and 45 minutes per day is the time spent on television. I don’t see OTT taking away anything from that,” Pherwani says. “OTT is becoming the second TV of the house, while TV stays the primary screen.”

“Cord cutting happens in the US because cable is expensive and internet is cheap,” says Menon of KPMG. “Cable here is cheap — in mega cities it is Rs 250 per month and in smaller cities, it is about Rs 150 per month for 800 channels.” With India being a household viewing market traditionally, digital is adding viewers and not reducing them, he sums up.

Rural beats urban

Bihar and Jharkhand continued to have the lowest penetration of television sets in the country, with less than 30 per cent households owning one. Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand follow with a TV in less than 45 per cent homes. In contrast, all five southern states — Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka — have a TV penetration of more than 90 per cent. This is an increase for Andhra Pradesh and Telangana as compared to two years ago, when 80 to 90 per cent households in the two states had TV sets.

These are some of the major findings of the Broadcast India report published by Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC) which measures TV viewership in the country. On average, penetration of TV sets in India stands at 66 per cent, an increase of two percentage points from 64 per cent in 2016. The data shows that Maharashtra has also gained in terms of TV penetration. Two years ago, 60 to 79 per cent of households had TV sets in the state, which has increased to 80 to 90 per cent, at par with neighbouring Gujarat. In the Northeast, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, 45 to 59 per cent houses have a TV set. In the north, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana all have 80 to 90 per cent TV penetration, while in Delhi more than 90 per cent houses have a TV set.

There are currently 298 million homes in the country, of which 197 million have a TV set, the Broadcast India 2018 survey said. In 2016, there were 183 million TV households in the country. The survey, based on a sample study of three lakh homes, said the number of TV viewing individuals also grew by 7.2 per cent to 836 million, from 780 million in 2016. Partho Dasgupta, CEO, BARC India, said India is driven by family viewing and this shows in the increase in the number of TV households. “TV remains the most effective platform for both content creators and advertisers to reach their audiences. With a penetration of just 66 per cent, there is still a huge scope of growth in the space,” media reported him saying. “…what hasn’t changed is the fact that TV remains the most effective platform for both content creators and advertisers to reach their audiences,” Dasgupta added.

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