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Who says the TV screen is crowded?
Four new Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs) were launched in the past 18 months. That brought the total to 13 in one of the most over-served markets in the country, the Hindi speaking states. Has that increased clutter?

Surprisingly, no. According to a TAM Media Research report, ‘The Impatient Generation; TV Consumption Behaviour Study 2009’, it actually led to an increase of three per cent in the viewership share of Hindi GECs. That, among many other insights, is what the study, which covers TV viewing behaviour in India between January and June 2009, highlights.

<img style="float:left; margin:0px 10px 0px 0px;" src="" />It confirms something we guessed all along – that fragmentation is increasing and attention spans are decreasing. The time spent on TV on weekends has fallen by three minutes, especially among young people and (surprise) the elderly.

However, the TAM report also busts some popular myths about TV viewing, especially the ones perpetuated by TV critics. That people are tired of soaps and are watching reality shows. The viewership share of reality shows on Hindi GECs has actually dropped by four per cent over the same period last year. This happened even though the amount of reality programming on air remained the same. And that of serials increased by one per cent, even as the programming hours remained the same.

In other languages – Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi – while reality shows get a nice chunk of viewership, soaps walk away with anywhere between one-third to half the viewership in that genre. In markets like West Bengal, the share of reality shows has dropped by half.

The other major bit of news is the rise of news channels in Indian languages other than Hindi, even while the share of Hindi news dropped somewhat. That is not surprising. Almost every major broadcast network in the country has launched news channels in Marathi, Tamil and Telugu, among several languages. Since these would have a more local flavour, people prefer to watch the news in their own language.

The report makes a basic point. That, when it comes to understanding consumer behaviour on television, the weekly highs and lows in TVRs do not matter. It is the long-term trend – channel share or genre share over several quarters – that really shows what is happening in the broadcasting business.

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