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NEW DELHI : New Delhi: The growth of video streaming services over the past two years in India has meant different things for different television genres, according to latest findings by television monitoring agency BARC (broadcast audience research council) India.

Hindi language channels, for instance, have remained stable without showing exponential growth, considering their large base. GECs (general entertainment channels) in Hindi for one, have gone to 16.6 million average of weekly AMAs (average minute audience) in 2020 from 15.8 million AMAs in 2018 among the 15-plus age group. Hindi movie channels, too, have risen to 9.8 million AMAs from 9.4 million. Regional languages such as Oriya, Bhojpuri and Assamese, have shown viewership spike of 14%, 19% and 16% respectively in two years.

AMA is defined as the number of individuals of a target audience who viewed an "event", averaged across minutes.

Niche genres, most frequently viewed by upscale, discerning viewers, however, have not managed to keep up. Viewership for infotainment channels for instance, has only grown by 7.9% over this period and of kids (among the 2-plus age group) by 5.7%.

These are findings from the ‘TV Universe Estimates 2020’ (TV UEs) brought out by BARC India along with the BARC Technical Committee (TechComm). TV UE 2020 has been developed by computing the linear growth of TV households and individuals from Broadcast India (BI) Studies conducted in 2016 and 2018 at geographic and demographic levels.

To be sure, the GEC category is pretty much back on track after covid-induced disruptions, though broadcasters are bracing for major churn in the genre. Cashing in on the family-centric vibe has benefited networks but challenges remain with consumption of TV content growing on mobile along with the need to invest in interactive technology, hybrid production models and the recognition that viewers have options across platforms now.

“Since the resumption of fresh content on television post the core lockdown period, we have seen a significant increase in the viewership of fiction content as the numbers signify," Prathyusha Agarwal, chief consumer officer, ZEE, said adding that during the pandemic, TV has expanded its role from an entertainer to a constant companion and a trusted family member. “We see the habit of television viewing growing stronger among the entire family as a unit, even in the new normal. Even as the need for TV viewing continues to grow, consumption of TV shows on mobile is also seeing a steady increase," Agarwal admitted.

About 2.5 crore (25 million) Indians tried long-format web content for the first time in 2020, said Shailesh Kapoor, chief executive officer at media consulting firm Ormax. However, the television universe is huge and mass genres will remain immune to growth in digital penetration. While niche categories such as English entertainment will be impacted the most, the other factor here is about the family-inclusiveness of the genre when it comes to movies and GEC, he added.

Broadcast companies also continue to see much value in new regional language channel launches, a trend that media experts say will continue even as the English and Hindi genres will see slowdown. Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd came out with a Marathi music channel Zee Vajwa last year while Dangal, the channel owned by Enterr10 Television Network expanded its footprint into the south Indian market with the launch of Dangal Kannada, close on the heels of its Bhojpuri offering Enterr10 Rangeela. A recent Ficci EY report said the top five genres which saw the highest increase in new advertisers in 2020 were all from regional language markets, led by Tamil news and Punjabi GECs.

“Regional markets have tremendous potential and scope with many of them underserved, which poses a viable opportunity for expansion to networks such as Enterr10 that are keen to expand their presence beyond the Hindi-speaking belt," Arpit Machhar, head of marketing, Enterr10 Television Network had said in an earlier interview to Mint.

Similar good news does not extend to English language and other niche genres such as lifestyle and infotainment. The premium proposition of these channels remains, but the double whammy of NTO (the new tariff order brought in by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in 2018 that mandated unbundling of channels) and the covid-19 lockdown has resulted in advertising revenue contracting to only a sixth of what it was pre-covid.

Last year, Sony Pictures Networks India had discontinued AXN and AXN HD channels across India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh, while WarnerMedia International announced the shutdown of the HBO SD (standard definition) and HD (high definition) linear movie channels in India and Pakistan.

“Current or potential viewers of niche, English TV channels directly overlap with upscale, forward-looking audiences of OTT platforms," Mehul Gupta, co-founder and CEO at SoCheers, an independent digital agency said. “Besides, there is the challenge of fresh, exclusive content. People are also moving towards the idea of watching what they want, when and how they want versus scheduled timings, and that includes tier-II and tier-III towns," he added.

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