If Viacom18 and Sony are planning a merger, there couldn’t be a better time.
That is the first thing that hits you when you look at Broadcast Audience Research Council numbers for what has happened to television broadcasting in the last six-odd months. The second is how much the market has changed.
In the first half of 2020, television viewership has risen by 9 per cent over the first half of 2019.
The average time spent has gone up from three hours and 46 minutes to over four hours. Yet, India’s top five broadcast networks have lost audience share.
The estimated Rs 18,000 crore (Rs 180 billion) Star India fell from 19 per cent network share in 2019 to 16 per cent in the seven months till July.
What saved it was Disney’s takeover of parent Fox in 2019.
Add Disney India to the Star kitty and India’s largest broadcaster held steady at roughly last year’s levels.
The Rs 8,130 crore (Rs 81.3 billion) Zee fell from 18.7 per cent to 17.2 per cent.
The reasons are not hard to find.
A bulk of the audience and revenues for the top five in the Rs 79,000 crore (Rs 790 billion) Indian broadcasting industry comes from entertainment programming.
The lockdown and the rolling effects of the pandemic meant that daily soaps, reality shows, all the stuff that drives viewership and keeps audiences hooked were missing.
Therefore, while viewership rose, a lot of it went to the worst programming form on TV — news.
The other big gainers were films and kids.
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