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TV viewership on 16 May: Who won the battle?

LiveMint logoLiveMint 22-05-2014 Vidhi Choudhary

New Delhi: For most TV news channels on Thursday, they were the news, with viewership data for 16 May, counting day, becoming available.

Times Now, part of the Times Group, and Aaj Tak, part of the India Today Group were the top English and Hindi news channels respectively, although rivals CNN-IBN and ABP News claimed they were No.1.

At stake in the counting-day coverage were bragging rights and, to a limited extent, advertising revenue, although ratings tend to be just one of the factors considered by advertisers, who also look beyond ratings on a single day.

Advertisers are believed to have spent `150 crore across news channels on 16 May, according to media buyers.

The viewership data for counting day wasn’t very different from what it usually is.

“Given their TRPs (television rating points) in the past— both these channels (Times Now and Aaj Tak) get top viewership on a regular day as well—what would have been surprising was if they did not manage to get the top spot on D-day. Customers don’t tend to change their loyalty on crucial days,” explained Shailaja Bajpai, a media critic and columnist for The Indian Express.

In India, though, most general entertainment and news channels find a way to slice the data to show that they are the “real” No.1.

And so, CNN-IBN claimed it was No.1 during elections results week. “CNN-IBN and IBN as a brand have always looked at consistency as the ultimate barometer of quality and success. In a one-and-a-half month election exercise from day one of polling till counting day , the facts which are public will undeniably tell you who the leader brand for elections is,” said Vinay Tewari, managing editor, IBN Network.

As did ABP News for “the entire counting day average”, the channel said in a statement.

N. Bhaskara Rao, chairperson at the Centre for Media Studies, a Delhi-based think tank that conducts media research, said news channels had simply gone “crazy”.

“It is such a joke, with these No.1 claims they are cheating the public and more importantly themselves. They (news channels) have created a lot of drama while reporting the elections, and now they want to continue with it.”

According to data provided by various news channels and reviewed by Mint, Times Now had a 45% viewership share in its genre and Aaj Tak, 22% in its. The data is compiled by ratings agency TAM Media Research.

The numbers need to be seen in the context of the reach of the channels. The reach of Hindi news channels is eight times that of English news channels at 97 million households (English news channels reach 12 million).

Gross television viewership in thousands (TVTs), a measure of time-weighted reach for all English news channels, stood at 2,035 TVTs (for cable and satellite home and viewers in the age group of 25 and above).

Times Now garnered 908 TVTs out of this pie followed by CNN-IBN that got 517 TVTs which translates into 25% viewership share. New Delhi Television (NDTV) came in third with 263 TVTs or 13% share of viewership.

“What is special this time is that Times Now is ahead by a huge, huge margin. It is the final reaffirmation of viewers’ faith in our credibility,” said Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief, Times Now.

Times Now got its exit poll predictions wrong, pointed out Sevanti Ninan, editor of media website thehoot.org and a Mint columnist, although, to be fair, almost all channels got their numbers wrong.

On average, English news channels saw viewership of three to four times the usual.

The all-India gross TVTs for Hindi news channels (viewers in the age group 15 and above) stood at 201,973 .

Aaj Tak got 43,579 TVTs while ABP News came a close second with 43,329 TVTs reflecting 21% viewership share. India TV came in third with 31,711 TVTs or 16% viewership share of the total Hindi genre.

“The strides that Aaj Tak has been making is the result of a focused approach towards our viewers. The maximum reporters on the ground, the most innovative use of technology in the form of holograms, a focus on grand visuals through the use of drones, and obviously the definitive edge of trust in the Aaj Tak brand made us the preferred choice,” said Ashish Bagga, group chief executive, India Today, which runs the channel.

On average, all Hindi news channels doubled their viewership on counting day.

Hindi news channel News 24, the only one to get its exit poll prediction right (it collaborated with research firm Today’s Chanakya) did not make the top three spot but saw significant growth in its viewership share.

“We have grown by 206% on counting day and for us that is what’s most important,” said Anuradha Prasad, editor-in-chief, News 24. The channel came in at number five with 7% viewership share.

India’s TV ratings have always been controversial, with at least some channels believing that the small size of the sample facilitates manipulation.

NDTV maintained that TAM data is not credible .

“Our views on TAM data have not changed. Their quality of data leaves a lot to be desired and that view is endorsed by most of the industry as well as TRAI and the government of India. We have only resubscribed to their data because our advertisers needed ADex data for compliance purposes. The only way to get that was to subscribe to the full package,” said Vikram Chandra, chief executive, NDTV group.

The media group resubscribed to TAM data in April this year after a hiatus of about 21 months so that advertising revenue does not get hurt.

NDTV.com “got 11.6 million unique visitors, 20 million video streams with average viewing time of 9 minutes,” Chandra added. “Apart from the traffic online, if you ask anyone anecdotally what news channel were they watching, the answer you’d get is NDTV.”

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