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Men or women, who owns TV remote? A study busts popular viewership myths

Move over women, men have taken over the television.

In 2020, among TV viewing households, more than 56 per cent Indian men controlled the television remote control during prime time (7 pm to 11 pm) on weekdays. This is exactly twice the number in 2012 (see charts).

In 197 million, primarily single-TV homes, it was men who decided what will play on TV during prime time. This flies straight in the face of the popular notion that women are the main viewers of TV in prime time – the axiom that decided the fate of the Rs 32,000 crore advertisers spent on television.

This is arguably the biggest takeaway from Ormax Media’s yet-to-be-released report, titled “And The Remote Goes To — Tele­vision Remote Control Dyn­a­mics in Urban Indian House­holds”. The report, shared with Business Standard, is based on interviews with 5,000 regular TV viewers across the country from October to December 2020.

“Ratings don’t tell you who decides what to watch. From an advertiser’s perspective, passive viewing is treated on par with ac­tive viewing,” says Shailesh Kap­oor, CEO, Ormax Media. What this research indicates is that “men are no longer a passive aud­ience. Increasingly, genres that are male and family inclusive (reality shows, non-fiction, comedy) are doing better,” he adds.

This male control of the re­m­ote explains why general entert­ainment channels, or GECs, have lost share to news and movies in the last few years.

Going by Broadcast Audience Research Council data, the prime-time viewership share of GECs fell from 67 per cent in 2015 to 63 per cent in 2020. Over the same period, movie viewership was up from 18 per cent to 24 per cent and news from 6 to 15 per cent. Note that as usual, on weekday afternoons women are in control and on Sundays men are.

Why did the shift happen and what does it mean?

For over 20 years now, ever since the soap opera Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi aired, prime time has been about women. The last five years, however, has seen a huge number of options coming up for women: There are smartphones with all kinds of applications from WhatsApp and YouTube to streaming TV shows that provide the distraction that linear TV earlier did.

“The most significant reason, perhaps, is that women empowerment is not the main television theme anymore. TV has served that cause well for almost two decades,” says Kapoor. “Broad­casters have to let go of the idea that prime-time programming is only for women.”

TV advertisers targeting men should be happy about this shift.

The report, though, points to one worrying factor: “With the rapid rise in digital media opt­i­o­ns, the TV industry must guard ag­ainst its median age nearing 40 years. That will be too high for what is truly a ‘mass’ medium.”

For now, however, with a reach of 836 million, TV remains (along with AM radio) the largest mass media in India.

Business Standard

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