Is Aaj Tak’s bet on Sudhir Chaudhary paying off?

Former Zee News anchor’s Black & White show on Aaj Tak has so far had marginal impact on the channel’s ratings.

WrittenBy:Tanishka Sodhi
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Sudhir Chaudhary was the face of Zee News for nearly a decade. So much so that the Hindi TV news channel’s brand, after a point, was indistinguishable from him. So, when he abruptly quit in June 2022, all eyes were on his next move.

Ten days later, Chaudhary, amid much fanfare, joined Aaj Tak as consulting editor and anchor of Black & White, a new primetime show. Kalli Purie, vice chairperson of the India Today Group, which runs Aaj Tak, boasted that her TV channel was the natural home for a household name in news and that she was glad Chaudhary had taken a call that would not disappoint his fans.

Soon, the channel announced the initial response to Chaudhary’s show was phenomenal: Black & White had higher average minute audience than every other news show in the 9-10 pm band based on four weeks of data.

It’s now three months since Chaudhary appeared on Aaj Tak. How is his show faring? Has the India Today Group’s bet on Chaudhary paid off?

Not quite, going by data from the TV ratings agency BARC.

Newslaundry analysed 16 weeks of BARC data for the 15 plus Hindi speaking audience in the 9-10 pm slot, which is when Chaudhary’s show airs. The data shows that Aaj Tak saw a slight increase in its 9-10 pm viewership after Chaudhary joined but not enough to break into the top three most-watched channels. It’s currently fourth in the leaderboard, behind News 18 India, India TV, and Republic Bharat.

The reliability of BARC data has been a matter of contention since the agency came under the scanner for data manipulation – see our coverage of the TRP scam – but it is still the most accessible measure of TV viewership.

The most notable increase in market share for Chaudhary’s show came the week he offered his “breaking analysis” of “love jihad” at garba pandals. In the September 30 show, he demanded to know why the people of a faith that, according to him, prohibited music and dancing – he meant Muslims – wanted to participate in Hindu religious festivities.

Gradual increase in market share

Chaudhary’s show debuted on July 19. In the previous four weeks, when Shweta Singh’s Khabardar had the 9-10 pm slot, the market share of Aaj Tak, as per BARC data, was between 10.9 percent and 11.1 percent.

In its first week, Chaudhary’s show increased the channel’s market share slightly to 11.6 percent, rising to 12.1 percent and 12.8 percent in the next two weeks before going up and staying at just over 13 percent in the following five weeks.

From September 18 to 23, the channel’s market share was 12.9 percent. It increased to 14.4 percent the following week, when Chaudhary did the “love jihad at garba” show.

That week, however, the market share of other top channels also increased noticeably. News 18 India went up from 15.9 the week before to 17.9, India TV from 15 percent to 17.1 percent, Republic Bharat from 14.9 percent to 15.8 percent, and TV9 Bharatvarsh grew from 10.3 percent to 11.1 percent.

The week after the “love jihad at garba” show Aaj Tak’s market share went down slightly to 14.1 percent, but remained in that range overall. The week after that, October 8 to 14, its market share was 14 percent, per the latest data released by BARC on October 20.

This month, India Today Group chief Aroon Purie said they had concerns about TV viewership measurement and that his news conglomerate was in talks with BARC to address the concerns. Zee Media, too, pulled out of BARC’s TV audience measurement system three weeks ago.

While Chaudhary’s arrival at Aaj Tak might not have had a major impact on its viewership so far, his departure from Zee News has significantly affected its ratings, negatively.

The market share of Zee News was the highest, at 16.9 percent, of all channels in the first week we analysed the BARC data for, June 18 to 24. This was when Chaudhary was still with Zee and hosted DNA at 9 pm.

After he left, the market share dropped rapidly and Zee News lost its place in the top five channels by viewership. Zee has opted out of the BARC ratings systems now, but the latest data available for Zee News shows that for the week of September 17 to 23, the news channel’s market share was 6.5 percent. That’s a precipitous drop from nearly 17 percent in just 13 weeks.

Newslaundry sent questions about the reach of Chaudhary’s new show to the India Today Group. This report will be updated if we get a response.

Update: YouTube concurrent data shared with Newslaundry by the India Today Group shows a high rise for Aaj Tak at 9pm. 

Speaking about the future plans for Chaudhary’s show, an India Today Group representative spoke about the “Mera Swabhimaan” campaign started by the anchor to “honour the self-esteem of members of the working class." The representative shared tweets, including by Uttar Pradesh deputy chief minister about the same.


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