News channels across languages have witnessed a surge in advertising revenues this year due to a spike in viewership on the back of heightened India-Pakistan tension following the Pulwama attack and the ongoing Lok Sabha election.
Despite the industry’s transition to the new tariff order as mandated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), the top five channels in both Hindi and English news genres have seen a significant spike in viewership.
According to data provided by the Broadcast Audience Research Council of India, the top five Hindi news channels saw a jump of 66 per cent in viewership year-on-year in Week 17 of 2019 (April 20 to April 26); the top five English news channels witnessed a 22 per cent rise in viewership. News channels typically have a cyclical viewership pattern since the genre is heavily dependent on current affairs. While prime time debate shows and special shows over the weekend have helped news channels get some amount of appointment viewing, viewership still shows spikes only around critical events.
Estimates say that the news genre is poised to earn at least 40 per cent more on a year-on-year basis for the January to April period. However, most of the ad-revenue spike has come on the back of slated events like polling days and election rallies.
“News channels will, in fact, see shrinkage in ad-inventory when these events (like Pulwama attack) occur because the focus is to give out as much news as possible. So in fact, there may be a slight dent in the ad-revenues on those days. But for slated events, inventory rates have seen an increase,” says Vikas Khanchandani, CEO, Republic TV.
While the genre has seen a jump in viewership and ad-revenues in the first four months of the year, May is expected to be the biggest month for new channels this year. With the election in full swing, channels are set to make the most of the demand for news. “It’s a sellers’ market on the counting day, and even the days leading up to it,” says a media planner.