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163 Million Watched Ayodhya Ram Temple Event; Entertainment Audience Shifting to News: BARC

File photo of PM Narendra Modi performing 'Bhoomi Pujan' at the Ram Mandir site in Ayodhya. (AP)

File photo of PM Narendra Modi performing 'Bhoomi Pujan' at the Ram Mandir site in Ayodhya. (AP)

The Ayodhya event on August 5 had viewing minutes of 7.3 billion, topping all the recent events where Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke, the industry body said.

The groundbreaking ceremony for a new Ram temple in Ayodhya earlier this month was aired on 198 channels and watched by 163 million people, Broadcast Audience Research Council said on Thursday.

According to the data, the body said, there is a trend of general entertainment channel (GEC) audiences shifting to news channels, and the coverage on Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput's alleged suicide has been one of the biggest watched subjects.

The Ayodhya event on August 5 had viewing minutes of 7.3 billion, topping all the recent events where Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke, the industry body said. Modi's address to the Nation on Independence Day had the highest viewing by minutes at 4.64 billion, while the fifth address during the COVID-19 pandemic on May 12 had 4.25 billion viewing minutes, it added.

The body's chief executive Sunil Lulla told reporters that one of the factors which could have increased the Ayodhya event's total viewing minutes could have been the length of the show was 207 minutes, compared to other events that were shorter.

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On the shifting viewing trends, BARC said GECs have been ceding audiences to the news channels across the languages, including Hindi, Marathi, Bangla and Kannada. "Across languages, news has impacted GEC viewership in primetime," BARC said.

Before the pandemic, only 41 per cent of GEC audiences were watching news, which has now gone up to 49 per cent. In Marathi, the shift is more pronounced with 63 per cent of GEC viewers watching news compared to 50 per cent before the crisis, it added.

For three of the last four weeks, the Rajput suicide issue has been the top story on news channels, while it was Ayodhya event in the fourth week.

Rajput suicide case has pulled smartphone users also check up on the news more, with a high of 48 per cent being achieved in the week when the death was reported, marketer AC Nielsen said, citing data from 12,000 users.

From an overall TV perspective, viewing rose marginally to 1.08 trillion minutes for the week to August 21 as TV started broadcasting more of fresh content, as against 1.07 trillion in the previous week, but was lower than the lockdown peak of 1.266 trillion in April, BARC said.

Lulla said the onset of the Indian Premier League later this year will help the sagging numbers of the sports segment as well. Meanwhile, Nielsen said that despite the Chinese apps ban, 29 per cent of people - who have the app on their phone - continued to click on the icon at least once a week from a level of 76 per cent when the bans were announced.