Indian viewing habits showed a shift towards the eclectic even as soaps maintained their stronghold.
The change is no longer creeping. It is clear and evident. In 2011 Indians spent a lot of time watching health and lifestyle shows, music channels and English entertainment. Their proportion to overall TV viewing remains small but these three genres among others showed the sharpest rise in year-on-year share of national viewing time. These and others is what a roundup of the viewing trends for 2011 by TAM Media Research show.(Click here for graph)
Infotainment programming (Discovery, Animal Planet et al) and Marathi general entertainment channels (GEC) are the other big gainers. The big drops have come from South Indian language channels and Hindi GECs. The growth of music channels is a surprise because private FM radio is such a popular and portable alternative. Nevertheless the genre has grown from about 1.8 per cent of all TV viewing in 2006 to over 3 per cent in 2011.
There are two key reasons for these shifts. One, is the growth of digital homes. India now has a whopping 42 million digital TV homes. This is 30 per cent of its 142 million TV homes. These homes have a higher skew towards English entertainment, sports, films and all the genres that have shown growth, going by both TAM data and by other studies done by advertisers. So the data reflects the on-ground distribution reality. It also explains, to some extent, the drops in South Indian languages or Hindi.
Two, it also reflects the action in broadcasting. For instance in 2006 there were only three Marathi channels with a total share of viewership at 2.9 per cent. There are now 10 channels with a total share of viewing time of 4.64 per cent. So more channels have increased the time spent on categories like Marathi, English entertainment or even infotainment.
In some cases, such as English entertainment or lifestyle both digitisation and the availability of options have worked in tandem. In others such as Marathi the impact of digitisation is perhaps not as critical. It is the availability of more options that has tempted people to spend more time watching Marathi or Bangla television.
Return to profitability hinges on its ability to secure higher proportion of low-cost domestic coal and lower interest costs