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NEW DELHI: The return of classics has made Doordarshan (DD) the most watched channel in India, with its viewership surpassing any other genre in the Hindi-speaking markets when the mythological epic, the Ramayana is aired.

In the last two weeks when the Ramanand Sagar show, originally a favourite from the 1980s, has been telecast on DD, its slot viewership--9 am and 9 pm--has grown 60 times. The other Hindu epic, the Mahabharat--12 pm and 7 pm--has helped the viewership surge by 208 times.

The findings are part of the third report by television viewership monitoring agency BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) and data measurement firm Nielsen on TV viewership and smartphone usage. BARC and Nielsen have looked at January as the pre-covid period and compared it with data in mid-March.

While the spike in viewing has been observed across urban and rural India among people above two years of age, smartphone usage was tracked across 12,000, 15-44 year-olds, Android smartphone users.

Overall, TV viewership has grown by 43% in the third week of the covid-19 lockdown, a 4% rise over the previous week. In fact, the segment of population watching TV for more than three hours a day has risen from 61% to 63% in the past week. The number of channels watched has gone up from 16 to 23 in the overall pre-to-post-covid period.

The surge in TV viewership continues to be driven by the 2-14 age group, which has registered a 52% rise followed by 41-50 year olds at 43%. News and movies have clocked an all-time high growth across languages, rising 251% and 77%, respectively.

Apart from the DD hits, shows such as Siya Ke Ram and Mahabharata on Star Plus and Metty Oli and Thangham on Sun TV have also returned, leading to slot viewership surge. Besides, sports too has dabbled with reruns, leveraging old India-Pakistan cricket matches and WWE tournaments.

However, advertising FCT (free commercial time) has fallen from 15% last week (as compared to the pre-covid period), to 9% this week versus the older period. Categories like toiletries, social and cultural organisations have seen the highest growth at 190 and 66 times, respectively.

Time spent on smartphones per user per week has grown by 12.5% in week three, versus 12% in a week ago, when both are compared to the pre-covid period. In fact, smartphone usage is inching towards 4 hours per day and about 26 hours 36 minutes per week.

Time spent on chat and social networking apps has stabilised at 5 hours 17 minutes and 4 hours 39 minutes, respectively, both per user per week. Mobile payments have gained traction, growing at 4%, as compared to the pre-covid period. Time spent on virtual education per user per week has gone up by 30%, while in case of online gaming, it has risen 44%.

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