‘Ramayana’ Rules As TV Viewership Hits All-Time High During Coronavirus Lockdown

India’s total TV consumption in the week starting March 21 rose 37% over pre-Covid-19 period (Jan. 11-31) to 1.2 trillion minutes.

A young girl watches Ramayana on her phone, during the coronavirus lockdown, in Guwahati, India on Saturday, March 28, 2020. (Photo: PTI)
A young girl watches Ramayana on her phone, during the coronavirus lockdown, in Guwahati, India on Saturday, March 28, 2020. (Photo: PTI)

Ramanand Sagar’s popular TV series ‘Ramayana' became the most watched Hindi serial as people stayed indoors amid a nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The mythological epic, first aired in the 1980s on DD National, recorded 51 million viewers—the highest since 2015 in the general entertainment channel space—on March 29 evening, according to preliminary audience estimates by Broadcast Audience Research Council and Nielsen.

The show, the report said, was the highest rated in urban and mega cities.

India’s total TV consumption in the week starting March 21, too, rose 37 percent over pre-Covid-19 period (Jan. 11-31) to 1.2 trillion minutes, the highest-ever, the report said. Average daily viewers grew 62 million during the period.

This came as the Narendra Modi-led government put 1.3 billion Indians under a 21-day coronavirus lockdown, effective March 24, amid mounting cases of infection. States like Maharashtra and Karnataka had sealed their borders long before the national shutdown.

Among other shows that are resurfaced on DD National are:

  • 'Shaktimaan' at 8:00 p.m. everyday
  • ‘Dekh Bhai Dekh’ at 6:00 p.m.
  • ‘Buniyaad’ at 5:00 p.m.
  • ‘Shrimaan Shrimati' at 4:00 p.m.
  • ‘Ramayana' twice a day at 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
  • ‘Circus’, starring Shahrukh Khan, at 3:00 p.m
  • ‘Alif Laila' at 10:30 a.m.
  • ‘Mahabharata’ at 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on DD Bharti
  • ‘Chanakya' at 10:00 p.m.

Zee Network has also started screening of its over-the-top content such as ‘Karle Tu Bhi Mohabbat’, ‘Baarish' and ‘Kehne Ko Humsafar Hain' for the first time on television. The network has lined up longer episodes of its popular fiction shows but hasn’t revealed the list.

“Our non-fiction programming and award show-based content is also being increased as it witnesses higher stickiness amongst families and has a higher affinity among the male audiences,” Prathyusha Agarwal, chief consumer officer of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd., told BloombergQuint in an email.

TV viewership of news and movies witnessed an all-time high growth across languages. While news viewership went up by 298 percent in the first week of lockdown, movies viewership increased 56 percent, the report said. Viewership for Hindi movies surpassed the Hindi general entertainment channels for the first time.

Highest viewership is recorded in Hindi-speaking market for any show in Hindi general entertainment channels across fiction and non-fiction content, the report said.

Kids too remained glued to the television during 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in the first week of lockdown, making it the new prime time for them, the report said.

Nick and Sonic are offering new content across kid’s favourite shows such as ‘Motu Patlu’ and ‘Rudra' and ‘Ninja Hattori' and ‘Pakdam Pakdai’, respectively. Nick will also air ‘Motu Patlu' and ‘Rudra' movies, and Nick Jr. new episodes of 'Paw Patrol’.

The Nickelodeon franchise leads the kids’ category with a 34 percent market share and has witnessed 28 percent growth in ratings with a 6 percent increase of weekly reach and a 20 percent increase in weekly viewing minutes across the franchise, it said in an emailed statement to BloombergQuint.

Star Movies is running a one-break kids movie during the lockdown period at 1:00 p.m. everyday which has movies like ‘The Jungle Book’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast’, among others. Star Plus, however, didn’t respond to BloombergQuint’s queries.

Zee’s Agarwal said the reach of kids’ audience has gone up by 29 percent for the movies genre. Subsequently, kids’ time spent has gone up for general entertainment channels and movies by 28 percent and 26 percent, respectively, after the lockdown.

Not only television, but Indians are also spending a lot of time on their smartphones.

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The time spent on smartphones in the second week of lockdown has increased by almost three hours per week, the report said.

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In the pre-Covid-19 period, Indians were glued to their phone screens for 23.6 hours in a week. That has now gone up to 26.4 hours in the second week of the lockdown. Smartphone users spent 45 percent more time on news apps in the second week of the lockdown, the report said.