Home / Industry / Media /  The north-south divide in reel life

New Delhi: South India has always been known to obsess about films and film-stars, building temples to some, and electing others as legislators. The depth of that obsession has now been captured in official numbers, which show that south Indians consume movies far more than anywhere else in the country.

Data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16 shows that on average, 15 percent of respondents in the country went to a cinema hall or theatre at least once a month. But in four of the five south Indian states — Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu, the share of people who went to a cinema hall or theatre at least once a month was nearly double the national average, with roughly one in three people being a regular movie-goer.

The figure for Kerala is slightly lower (21 percent) but is still higher than the national average. In states such as Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, less than one in ten people reported going to a cinema hall or theatre once a month.

The divergence cannot be explained simply by affluence. Delhi, Haryana, and Punjab are nearly as affluent as the south but their consumption of movies is far lower compared to the south.

The NFHS 2015-16 is a large nationally representative survey of over half a million households households used primarily to assess health outcomes. But it is also a rich source of data on household assets and consumption.

Among districts, Benguluru Urban in Karnataka has the highest share of people who went to a cinema hall or theatre at least once a month (55 percent), followed by Chennai district (50 percent) in Tamil Nadu, and Ranga Reddy district (44 percent) in Telangana.

Across the country, the movie-viewing crowd is dominated by young males, an age-wise and gender-wise break-up of the data shows.

Women tend to patronize movie theatres far less than men across age-groups, the data shows. Note that these numbers don’t reflect movie consumption on TV or OTT platforms.

When it comes to TV viewership, there is hardly any gender difference, the data suggests. TV was also by far the most popular medium among those surveyed (there wasn’t any separate question on OTT or mobile video platforms). Six in ten respondents claimed to watch TV regularly, the data shows, and there was hardly any difference between male and female viewership across age-cohorts.

About one-fourth of the respondents claimed to read a newspaper or magazine on a daily basis but there was a stark gender difference in the responses, perhaps in part driven by the gender gap in literacy and educational attainments. Males were almost twice as likely to read newspapers (or magazines) regularly as women across age-groups. And across age-groups, the proportion of regular male readers was constant at roughly a third of the population.

Overall, newspapers appear to be the second most popular mass media after television. Cinema comes third (if we use a monthly rather than daily frequency to gauge consumption). Radio is a distant fourth, the data suggests, with less than one in ten listening to it on a regular basis.

The distribution of newspaper readership appears more evenly spread compared to the distribution of movie-goers but there is one big outlier: Kerala, whose newspaper readership at 61 percent is more than twice the national average, partly reflecting its higher literacy and educational attainments.

Tamil Nadu (38 percent), Karnataka (34 percent), Maharashtra (29 percent), and Haryana (28 percent) are the other leading states in terms of the share of population that reads newspapers regularly.

Among districts, Kottayam in Kerala has the highest newspaper readership in the country (74 percent), followed by Kannur (69 percent) and Ernakulam (67 percent), also in Kerala.

Unsurprisingly, more educated households which also tend to be more affluent, have far higher readership of newspapers than less educated households. Across districts too, better-educated and more affluent districts tend to have higher newspaper readership. In comparison, TV viewership is more broad-based.

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