The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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TV on top

Regional channels rule. Kids don’t watch as much television as their parents. Calcutta spends more time in front of the small screen than Mumbai and Delhi…

A research on the television viewing habits of Calcutta, conducted by Television Audience Measurement (TAM) India, has put our populace in its place – in front of the idiot box.

Contrary to loose tele talk labelling tots and teens the worst addicted, the 4-14 age bracket forms the smallest slice of the city’s viewership pie (15 per cent), beaten comprehensively by their parents and grandparents (46 per cent), and comfortably by 15 to 24-year-olds (20 per cent) and 25 to 34-year-olds (19 per cent).

“I completely agree with that,” says Shyamasree Sen, a mother of two and a resident of Salt Lake. “The adults in my house, including me, watch much more TV than the kids who are busy with school and other activities.” Son Anamit, in Class VII, watches cartoons, cricket and Hindi serials, but not for more than an hour or two a day. Weekends find him outdoors – either playing his favourite sport or joining in a family outing (often including a trip to the cinemas).

Thanks to the ever-expanding work hours of young executives, they too miss out on TV action. “I leave home around 9 am and return around 9 pm, so there’s hardly any time to watch TV,” sighs Sulagna Raha, who works with a financial institution. “But on Sunday if I’m home, I’m in front of the TV the whole day,” the girl in her early-20s says.

When it comes to spending time in front of the television, the city stands second only to Chennai. A Calcuttan spends 16.1 hours per week compared to Chennai’s 19.3 hours.

Mother tongue rules

As far as channels go, the Bengali beam is the strongest, with an average 36 per cent viewership per day in the city. “The dependency on regional channels indicates the viewer’s attachment to the language and culture,” observes Siddhartha Mukherjee, head, corporate communications, TAM Media Research.

“There is a decent representation of viewers of mass or family entertainment channels, but for a large chunk of viewers regional channels offer a window to the world.” The pronounced regional slant is not present in a metro like Mumbai where mass entertainment slots score, adds Mukherjee.

Throughout the day, regional channels command the lion’s share in viewership, but they do particularly well in the mornings and evenings, peaking with a 51 per cent share in the 6 am to 9 am slot.

The programming mix of the channels helps. “Along with the newspaper, the office-goer likes to watch the news on television,” says Pinaki Ghosh, area head (marketing), ETV Network. “In the morning, we also have religious programmes that appeal to the elderly. Annadata, providing useful information to farmers, is a big hit in the rural areas,” he adds.

Evenings are packed with news, current affairs programmes, soaps and game shows in Bengali. Chaitali Banerjee, a housewife in Selimpur attests: “I watch TV in the evening only and that, too, mostly Bengali serials like Astha and game-shows like Haun Maun Khaun.”

Prime-time preference

Two other genres with strong viewership are mass Hindi channels and the local cable feed. For Hindi channels, prime time, understandably, is the best time to grab eyeballs.

Prime time (7 pm to 11 pm) finds mass Hindi channels taking up 28 per cent of the viewership market.

Jassi Jaissi Koi Nahin and Kkusum perform the best among our soaps in Calcutta and movies beamed on both Sony and MAX do very well,” offers Sunil Lulla, executive vice-president, Sony Entertainment Television.

Ground events help boost viewership — Gully Cricket with Mandira Bedi, for instance, saw a huge turnout in June and a visit by Jassi to the Book Fair caused a stampede in January.

Cable channels include those beaming movies and music offered by multi-system operators (MSOs) like RPG Netcom and SitiCable, and those by the last-mile operator (your friendly neighbourhood cablewallah). Peak times: 9 am to noon and 11 pm to 2 am.

“An interesting trend here is that cable viewership of females is far higher than males compared to other metros,” points out TAM’s Mukherjee. “Also, viewership of affluent socio-economic class (SEC) A and B put together is more than SEC D and E.”

This is both contrary to the perception of the rich not tuning in to the para cable programmes and also unlike other metros.

Other trends thrown up by the viewership time line are: English movie channels gain in the late night; music channels make their presence seen and heard in the morning and “unique content channels” like Discovery and National Geographic gain early in the morning and late at night.

Say sport, see sport

The real surprise comes in the dent that sports and kids channels make — or rather fail to make — in the ratings. The highest share that sport manages is an unimpressive 14.5 in the 4 to 7 pm slot. That, despite the fabled cricket and football craze in Calcutta. But when it comes to an India-Pakistan showdown, ratings hit the roof. Euro 2004 on ESPN STAR Sports also showed the city on the ball.

The Calcutta sports viewer, though, is keen to voice his opinion and be heard. “Besides enjoying sports on TV, viewers from Calcutta constantly provide feedback, an uncommon phenomenon nationally,” reveals Himanshu Verma, director, corporate communications and event management group, ESPN Software. “A natural inclination and a strong sense of participation also makes Calcutta a perfect market for sampling new sports like Formula One,” he adds.

Kid channel ratings, too, turn myths on their head, with a mere 2.4 per cent high point managed in the 9 am-to-noon segment. But beware of the brat power remains the MSO mantra. “If we shift cartoon channels, all hell breaks loose,” exclaims Amit Nag, CEO, RPG Netcom.

Now that you know the numbers, TV ta ki chalaben (will you turn on the TV)'

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