Indian Media: Lifting the Curtain: The Media Industry and the Changing Landscape

The evolution of television news is as important a milestone for humanity as the postal system, which offered the first proof of global connectivity. The television news industry has become prominent, expanding its reach into every home with televisions in recent years. In 2020, news channels accounted for 43% of the total registered channels in India. In addition, in the same year, news genre views were 10.4%, third behind GEC and movies, and saw a 43% increase in views in the first 26 weeks of 2020 compared to the corresponding period in 2019. However, the composition and mechanism of the television news industry remains unexplored. Thus, the article attempts to understand the television news industry and its structure, which is a complex intersection of many forces, often including contesting and agreeing with each other.

Coverage of the television news industry is important because it helps you understand the structure of the industry and also demonstrates how it works. Broadly speaking, the television news industry is a complex network of various interconnected forces. The television news industry is highly competitive and various television channels in Hindi, English and other languages ​​constitute a rivalry between existing competitors. The competition between these news channels is to get more viewers to pay attention to their channel, and the industry is defined by intense competition for viewers. The “audience” of these news channels constitutes the power of buyers. However, along with viewers, advertisers have become one of the most significant forces as buyers in the industry, which influences the industry mechanism as well as broadcast content. Revenue in the industry is generated through advertising. However, advertising depends on the number of views of these news channels. The result has been a virtuous cycle of advertisers and viewers that drives the television industry.

One of the most important components of the television news industry is advertising. Even though the “buyers” in the industry are the viewers or the audience of these news channels, the competition between these news channels is still aimed at attracting a larger audience to attract more advertising to generate revenue. Recently, with the spread mass media industry across the country, attracting more advertising at high prices, ranked first in the industry. In 2020, the news genre led with a 31% share of ad volume, followed by the General Entertainment Channels (GEC) genre with a 27% share, according to TAM AdEX. Hindi news remained the second-best language genre in terms of advertising volume and its share in advertising volume increased to 6%. Thus, high view counts become important to attract more ads as media agencies and advertisers look for view data and general trends when they buy ad time on news channels. However, it has been argued that viewership data is not the determining force behind ad revenue, and pricing depends on other factors such as the channel’s brand, quality, distributor demand, and the reputation built over the years. However, viewing data remains an important component in determining ads.

With the changing digital landscape in India, news channels are expanding their reach from TV screens via DTH to mobile phones, tablets and laptops via digital channels, as well as programs on YouTube and Facebook. News channels have not only made their channels live streaming available on OTT and YouTube, but now exclusive online channels and exclusive content are also available to digital audiences. According to the FICCI-EY Media and Entertainment March 2021 report, online news audience has grown to 450 million in 2020. India has the second largest digital population in the world with 468 million people and time spent online increased by 32% in 2020. In 2020, online news had the widest reach, with 454 million mobile and desktop users of news sites, portals and aggregators compared to 450 million users of online entertainment. In addition, downloads of online news and magazine apps increased by 12% in 2020, signifying a shift from newspapers and television as news sources to digital platforms.

Now the question is: with the rapid expansion of the news channel industry, how does the industry get information about how a particular business in the industry is doing? This is done through a TV ratings system, where the agency measures the performance and views of various news channels. The TV rating system can influence the structure of the TV news industry. This rating system greatly influences the volume of advertising attracted by news channels. Notably, news channel audiences are now split across different spectrums, from DTH to online platforms. However, the rating system simply rates the DTH audience with a limited sample size, not keeping up with the rapidly changing landscape and nature of the TV news industry. Thus, it becomes necessary to have an unbiased rating system mechanism that does not ignore changing scenarios. Instead of a ratings agency with so much power and ability to distort a fair competitive market. The situation calls for the television news industry to wake up and find a new way to measure its performance while keeping up with the pace of its industry expansion.

Amit Kapoor is Chairman of the Indian Competitiveness Institute and visiting fellow and lecturer at Stanford University; Akshay Bhambri is Research Director at the Indian Competitiveness Institute and Research Fellow at the Harvard Yenching Institute.