‘Biggest event of the year’: News channels had ‘historic’ TRPs thanks to Ram Mandir

Aaj Tak even had an exclusive branding deal with Kent RO.

WrittenBy:Tanishka Sodhi
Date:
Illustration of a stack of TV sets, each one showing a visual from the consecration of the Ram temple.
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Since December, your news and social media feeds were probably drenched with updates on the Ram temple’s consecration. Which Bollywood stars were in attendance? What was in the goody bags handed to attendees? What colour was the sanctum sanctorum? How many IAF choppers were co-opted into the celebration?

Whether you wanted it or not, you got play-by-play updates on everything you needed to know – and a lot that you really didn’t. 

And the consecration, which finally took place on January 22, was a victory not just for the BJP and excited Hindus across the country, but also for TV channels that banked on the inauguration for TRPs, high ad rates and, obviously, a full-fledged media circus. From bhajans to pushpak vimaans in the studio, there was very little that channels didn’t do to celebrate the rehoming of Ram. 

And yes, in several cases, it resulted in exceptional TRPs – depending on whom you’re asking. The Broadcast Audience Research Council, the industry body responsible for television measurement, provides data on TRPs to news channels that are subscribers. 

Executives at Aaj Tak, for instance, gave Newslaundry data from BARC that shows the channel recorded a viewership of 4,266 impressions measured in AMA 000s, defined as the number of individuals (in thousands) of a target audience who viewed an event, averaged across minutes. This was in the noon to 1.30 pm time slot on January 22 for the 15+ age group in Hindi-speaking markets. 

In contrast, entertainment channel Star Plus recorded 2,718 impressions, Sony Sab 1,663, and Star Pravah 1,278. It’s unusual for a news channel to beat a Hindi general entertainment channel when it comes to viewership, but Aaj Tak seems to have done just that. 

The numbers imply the viewership on January 22 was greater than Aaj Tak’s viewership on counting days for the elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur last year. It also beat viewership on counting days for Rajasthan, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

However, News18 India also sent Newslaundry their BARC viewership data. It showed that the channel received the highest viewership in the week of January 22 of 80,086 impressions. According to the data, that’s more than Star Plus (72,514), Republic Bharat (68,328) and Aaj Tak (67,118). News18 India also carried a full-page jacket ad in Economic Times on February 7 that said “No. 1 in the Ram Mandir consecration week. News18 India is ahead of Aaj Tak”.

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The TRPs on January 22 were “bigger than any election”, according to a senior executive with a Hindi news channel. “It is similar to the monopoly of news 12-13 years ago. It won’t be wrong to call this the biggest event of the year for news channels.”

The India Today group’s “internal prediction algorithm” backed this up – it called January 22 the “largest single-day GRP ever recorded by any news channel ever since data release resumed for news channels”. GRP, or gross rating point, refers to a measuring standard that tracks exposure of an ad.

While we couldn’t verify this claim, data from Chrome Data Analytics and Media, a private company that conducts tech-driven research and data analysis, sent Newslaundry its analysis of consolidated concurrent views on January 22 across digital end points (YouTube, native apps, third-party apps, and browsers). 

According to its data, Aaj Tak’s digital live feed recorded a 611 percent growth in concurrent views on January 22 compared to the week before. Zee News’s digital live feed saw a 596 percent hike, India TV a 464 percent hike, Republic Bharat a 443 percent hike, and ABP News a 308 percent hike. These were also the channels that attracted the highest concurrent views across all active news streams in India, as per the data.

Chrome noted that the maximum spike in average concurrent views on January 22 took place between 12 pm and 1 pm.

“Considering how Ram Mandir shaped up to be a national celebration, it garnered a huge amount of eyeballs, much higher than other events,” said Pankaj Krishna, founder of Chrome. “What’s amusing is that this huge spike happened despite all the news channels carrying the same feed. So clearly, a huge number of people were watching.”

R Jay Krishna, secretary-general of the News Broadcasters Federation, agreed. 

“This is a news-watching country and this was an event that had people glued to their television sets, so naturally there was a hike,” he said. 

According to a spokesperson from the Times Network, the Hindi news genre in general recorded a 16 percent spike in absolute TVTs, referring to television viewership in thousands. This was in the week of January 22 in the Hindi-speaking market aged 15 years and above. 

Times Now Navbharat specifically recorded a 29 percent rise in viewership in the Hindi news genre, the spokesperson said. “Additionally, the channel’s market share increased from 8.2 percent to 9.2 percent during this pivotal week, demonstrating its expanding reach and influence in the 15+ Hindi-speaking market,” they claimed, adding that Times Now had a “30 percent viewership share” in the English news category that week.

Special packages 

Industry professionals told Newslaundry that news channels offered “special ad packages” to advertisers on January 22. These packages are usually offered on days when big-ticket events are scheduled to take place, like election results or an India-Pakistan cricket match, because large audiences are expected to tune in.

Newslaundry learned that Aaj Tak had an exclusive “roadblock” deal with Kent RO Systems on January 22, where only this product was advertised across the India Today group’s assets, including digital. The 84-second branding deal ran from 12.29.08 pm to 12.30.32 pm.

Channel representatives told Newslaundry that apart from the usual FMCG and cement companies, infrastructure and realty companies had also “expressed interest” in buying ads for January 22. 

The Times Network representative said its channels had “over 100 brands” advertising, out of which 20 were first-time advertisers. These brands spanned categories like construction material, infrastructure, automobiles, consumer durables, FMCG companies, and e-commerce. The network planned content over three weeks, programmed under the brands “Ram Mandir Utsav” and “Ram Rashtrotsav”.

“It was a very bullish day,” said an executive with a Hindi news channel. “There was great demand for advertisers across segments to come on board. It is common to have special packages of ad rates on special days such as these.”

Another executive from a Hindi news channel claimed the overall reach of the news genre in general “increased by 30-35 percent” on January 22. 

“A lot of advertisers reached out to not only our Hindi channel but also our regional channels in the days preceding the event,” they said. “Whatever you say, it is a spectacle to see. For example, if a slot is usually sold for Rs 3,000, it can be hiked up to Rs. 5,000 for the day.”

R Jay Krishna added that ad packages for events like these are an “industry norm”. “Even people who usually watch regional channels tend to flip to national channels during such events.”

This report was published with AI assistance.

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