Television has always been the biggest draw of crowd since the early seventies in India. Today, it is perhaps as big as the entire continent of Europe. The Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC), the country’s TV viewership monitoring agency, has increased its estimates for audience size and television penetration, saying the medium now is watched by 780 million citizens in the South Asian nation. By comparison, Europe has a population of about 745 million. After the update, the homes with a television set in the country have gone up to 183 million from 154 million, implying an increase in TV penetration to 64%, from the earlier estimate of 54%. The marked increase follows the latest broadcast India survey, the largest ever research study undertaken to ascertain TV universe and television viewing habits in India. Fieldwork for the broadcast India survey was carried out between November 2015 to February 2016, covering 300,000 homes across 590 districts, touching about 4,300 towns and villages.

In an exclusive interview with Euronews, Partho Dasgupta, CEO of BARC India said, “The TV universe in India is ever growing and changing and so is the profit and choice of a TV viewer. The last survey done was in 2013 and the last census was in 2011. The consumer and viewer landscape is changing rapidly with electrification, prosperity, changing modes of signal and digitisation.”

India TV viewing

To what extent is television viewing popular in India?

Partho: India has the largest TV viewership measurement panel in the world with close to 100,000 individuals. BARC India runs a panel of 20,000 households and plans to reach 50,000 households by the end of 2019. With a universe of 780 million TV watching individuals, 26.7 billion weekly impressions and an average time spent of 3 hours and 24 minutes, television viewership in India is huge, and still growing. This also reflects in advertiser affinity for the medium, which still accounts for 45% of the total advertising spend in the country.

Within this huge market, dramas has 53% viewership, movies 17% and news 11%, are the three most preferred programme genres. More specifically, how does international content perform in India?

Partho: International TV content, which falls largely under our genres of English entertainment and English movies has a loyal and growing viewership in India which derives directly from the large base of English speaking population in India. We have seen a spike in both English movies and English entertainment genre viewership which grew by 42% and 23% respectively over the previous year. An interesting insight is that English language content is consumed outside of big cities as well, with as much as 60% viewership for English entertainment coming from Tier II and Tier III markets. English fiction shows are well received by Indian audiences. Shows such as Suits, Supergirl, Quantico have done very well on Indian television with channels seeing huge spikes in viewership when these shows were aired.

How large is the sports offer on Indian TV channels?

Partho: When it comes to sports, while cricket remains the most popular on Indian television, premium sports events like the Barclays Premier League, La Liga, Bundesliga, Tennis Grand Slams, WWE and Rio Olympics have also proved to be a hit with Indian viewers. The popularity of these sports properties can be gauged from the fact that there are currently 22 sports channels (10 of which are in HD) catering to dedicated viewers of these sports events. A global sporting event like Rio Olympics was watched by 203.8 million unique viewers in India.

You recently released your Broadcast India 2016 survey. What were the main highlights?