The rise of rural TV viewers

Rural India has 17% more TV owning households than urban India


A comparison of TV viewership data in week 41 of 2015 versus week 41 of 2016 shows that TV impressions in India have gone up by 24%—18% in urban and 30% in rural India. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
A comparison of TV viewership data in week 41 of 2015 versus week 41 of 2016 shows that TV impressions in India have gone up by 24%—18% in urban and 30% in rural India. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint

India’s premier television ratings agency, the Broadcast India Research Council, or Barc India, played an important role in broadcasting in 2016. However, its plans for 2017 are bigger. The agency, which launched TV viewership data in 2015, is already on its way to scale up the size of its panels (the households it tracks) to 30,000 from the current 20,000. Barc India chief executive Partho Dasgupta says the intention is to increase the number of panel homes beyond the mandated 30,000 in 2017 itself, provided the move is supported by all stakeholders.

The agency will also release the Broadcast India Survey soon. This is Barc’s own primary establishment survey, a universe estimation study for which it commissioned research firm Nielsen. The survey was carried out between November 2015 and February 2016. The survey covers nearly 300,000 respondents, across 590 districts and approximately 4,300 towns. It captures data on TV ownership, connection type, language preferences and other media consumption habits.

Dasgupta shares some of the survey highlights. According to him, at the household level, the New Consumer Classification System (NCCS) D and E has seen a 19% drop, while NCCS A, B and C have grown. (NCCS or New Consumer Classification System replaced the older SEC or socioeconomic classification in 2014). The study shows nuclear families, without elders, are on the rise. The family size too has reduced from 4.39 in 2015 to 4.15 in 2016. In fact, the average family size even in TV-owning households of rural India is shrinking. As per the Indian Readership Survey 2013, the average family size in rural India was 4.71 compared to 4.63 now.

The new survey also points to a significant increase in number of TV homes: TV owning homes in India have gone up from 153.5 million to 183 million. That is not all. Rural India has 17% more TV owning households than urban India. The urban-rural split in terms of percentage of TV penetration has changed from 49:51 to 46:54.

When it was set up, Barc had used the Census 2011 and the Indian Readership Survey 2013 data to decide on the 20,000 panel homes. But to expand its panel size now, it will use the findings of the Broadcast India Survey. This will help it understand the changing profile of TV viewers and make the sample more representative. In fact, 2016 was an eye opener in terms of rural viewership. Though the industry was exposed to rural ratings from October 2015, clear trends in rural viewership emerged last year. To be sure, TV viewership as a whole has seen a rise since Barc India started measuring TV viewing habits. “This can be attributed to rise in the number of channels in each genre as well as increase in Average Time Spent (ATS) by viewers on TV,” points out Dasgupta.

A comparison of TV viewership data in week 41 of 2015 versus week 41 of 2016 shows that TV impressions in India have gone up by 24%—18% in urban and 30% in rural India. Not just this, even the average time spent has seen a jump of 21%—17% in urban India and 26% in rural. Soaps followed by film-based programmes are a hit among rural audiences.

“This trend remains the same across all zones with the exception of South. Viewership for serials is driven majorly by the North zone while film-based programmes have the maximum viewership in the South zone,” says Dasgupta.

Different TV genres also saw a spike in viewership in 2016. For instance, English general entertainment grew by an impressive 187% (week 41, 2015 versus week 41, 2016) while Hindi and English News grew 81% and 54%, respectively. Even sports, movies and other regional genres saw a spike in TV viewership.

2017 will pave the way for measurement of digital viewership. Barc India is rolling out its pilot study for the purpose which should be ready for a phased launch beginning this year. “We will start first with digital video ads across personal computers, mobiles and tablets and then look to add content later in the year,” says Dasgupta.

Last but not least, in 2016, Barc floated a Request for Proposal to create a pool of firms that would provide consultancy service to its subscribers. “We will be materializing this in 2017. This would mean that our subscribers, particularly broadcasters, through the help of these consulting firms, will be able to analyse Barc India data which in turn would help them work on their content strategy,” says Dasgupta.

The agency decided to take this step as information and broadcasting ministry guidelines prohibit it from involving itself in any advisory role. The plan is to create a small pool of approved consulting companies from which Barc subscribers can choose.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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