Sushant Case Has Affected TV Show Ratings: Industry Insiders

Abira Dhar
·4-min read

The coronavirus lockdown has changed a lot of things for us, one of those being our TV-viewing pattern. For the past six months, with everyone locked in their homes, there has been a huge spike in the consumption of content on the television.

According to a joint report by BARC and Nielsen, the first week of the lockdown (March 22 to March 28) saw the highest consumption ever in seven days. News and movie channels recorded an all-time high growth in viewership. Hindi movie channels surpassed the Hindi General Entertainment Channels (GEC) in viewership.

However, the television industry seems to have suffered a setback. Shoots came to an unexpected halt and new episodes could not be aired. After months of uncertainty, shoots commenced towards the end of July. While some shows started afresh by scrapping the stories that were airing, others have tried to script new tales keeping the coronavirus angle in mind. But are the new techniques working? Let us see.

WHAT THE DATA SAYS

Recent data shows that post lockdown there has been a 8% spike in the percentage of Hindi GEC viewership also viewing news. However, for the first time, news channels saw a huge surge in the number of viewers.

News has impacted Hindi GEC viewership in primetime.
News has impacted Hindi GEC viewership in primetime.

Even though the Hindi GEC shows came back with new episodes and fresh content, they are not being able to get back in the TRP game. News channels continue to attract eyeballs.

GEC grows back to pre-covid levels.
GEC grows back to pre-covid levels.

WHAT THE INDUSTRY HAS TO SAY

The Quint got in touch with Bhavna Vyas, the writer of Kundali Bhagya. The serial has been one of the top five TV daily soaps in the rating chart. Bhavna confirmed that the TRPs of running shows have been affected post lockdown. "Added to that is the pressure of generating content with so many limitations and restrictions. Given the new guidelines of shooting in a post-COVID world and keeping in mind the safety of our cast and crew, we are facing a roadblock creatively as well", she says.

Talking about the bent towards news channels, the writer says that the Sushant Singh Rajput case may have affected the TV shows to some extent, but that cannot be the only factor.

"“The Sushant Singh Rajput case is huge and revolutionary, and we are all emotionally invested in it. As per my understanding, this may have affected the TV shows to some extent, but it cannot be the dominating factor. Loyal fans stand by their favourite shows through thick and thin”." - Bhavna Vyas, Kundali Bhagya writer

Top 5 news stories in past 4 weeks.
Top 5 news stories in past 4 weeks.

The Quint also spoke to actor, producer and Indian Film and TV Producers' Council (IFTPC) chairman JD Majethia, who gave a detailed insight into what has been driving the viewership pattern in the COVID world.

Men staying home and taking over the remote to watch only news channels is an important factor, he says. “Before the virus hit the country, homemakers used to finish work and watch TV serials in the evening while the men would get home late at night and then watch the news repeat. Now, everybody is home all the time, so the lifestyle has also changed. Women are watching repeat telecast of their favourite serials while the men have taken over primetime news.”

Another factor Majethia mentions is the kind of news that's been running on the channels. Towards the beginning of the lockdown, people were more interested in COVID-19 updates. Then came the Prime Minister’s speech, then the number of celebrity deaths, the floods and finally the Sushant Singh Rajput case which caused a national uproar. Majethia, who has produced the Sony SAB show ‘Bhakarwadi’, says that even that primetime serial has taken a bad hit.

"“Whatever we are seeing on news channels these days is more of a show than actual news. The Sushant Singh Rajput case has unfortunately become a source of entertainment for people. There is a hero, a heroine, there is a love story, a family involved, there is politics, there is friendship, there is betrayal. There are elements that has generated high interest. Of course not all of it is the truth. There’s a lot of fiction involved in this case as well. Definitely the interest in this case is one of the reasons people are more attracted to primetime news.”" - JD Majethia, Chairman, IFTPC

Apart from these, another factor could well be that the audience isn't getting attracted to the kind of content revolving around coronavirus and the situation we are grappling with.

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