As social isolation intensifies amidst the social distancing and work-from-home measures necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, over-the-top (OTT) and television viewership has jumped, data from companies show.

This is mainly attributed to the closure of multiplexes and other entertainment avenues across the country.

The total TV viewership across India in week 10 (week ending March 19) grew 5 per cent to 906.2 billion, from 865.9 billion in Week 9 (week ending March 13), data shared by the Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC India) shows. Sports and Hindi news content showed the maximum spike in viewership during this time, followed by Hindi movies, kids content and Hindi GEC, according to BARC.

ZEE5, Zee Group’s OTT platform, saw twice the growth in subscription as of March 22, compared to March 15, Tarun Katial, CEO, ZEE5 India, told BusinessLine.

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“As far as content consumption is concerned, we have seen a spike across key metros with audiences continuing to consume a wide variety of content in 12 languages. Interestingly, we have seen a jump of over 10 per cent in the consumption of our original content and over 5 per cent for TV content via connected devices like Amazon Fire Stick and on Smart TVs (the weekend of March 14-15-16, compared to the previous week),” said Katial.

Hungama Digital Media, on the other hand, has seen a 20 per cent increase in viewership on Hungama Play since the beginning of March, said Neeraj Roy, Founder & CEO, Hungama Digital Media. “Since OTT platforms offer users a convenient way to entertain themselves from the safety of their homes, we are witnessing a spike in consumption,” said Roy.

The initial growth came from Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, but as more people began to understand the gravity of the situation and the need to stay at home, similar trend was seen in other cities as well, added Roy.

ZEE5 Global, too, saw a surge of 15 -18 per cent in viewership across all its content categories, said Archana Anand, Chief Business Officer, ZEE5 Global. She said there has been a 60 per cent jump in new subscriptions globally in the month of March, which has also led to spike in viewership.

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Consumption uptick

Broadcasters also had a similar story to tell. “We are witnessing the early signs of a consumption uptick with the average time spent on TV increasing sharply,” said Prathyusha Agarwal, Chief Consumer Officer, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd. With schools and colleges shutting down and a mandatory work-from-home in place, viewership has risen by 15 per cent among males and 26 per cent among kids, she pointed out.

Agarwal said this is indicative of how the entire family is consuming more television content, with a clear convergence between weekday and weekend viewership behaviour being perceptible.

“There is a need to customise programming for this emerging trend. At ZEE, we have geared up with content to serve this new trend with Zee TV presenting three new finite shows in a special exclusive band, building a strong narrative about the power of love and how it helps us tide over the most challenging times,” she said. Longer “binge-worthy episodes” of its popular fiction shows have been lined up across most channels. Its non-fiction programming and award show based content is also being increased as it witnesses higher stickiness amongst families and has higher affinity among the male audience, she added.

Netflix, Hotstar, Voot, Amazon Prime Video and SonyLIV did not respond to BusinessLine’ s queries on the matter.

Increase in viewing time

Consumption hours have also witnessed a shift, said Hungama’s Roy. While earlier, consumption would remain high between 8 am and 10.30 am, it now remains high till 11.30 am and similarly, in the evening, consumption begins to peak from 6 pm, as opposed to 8 pm, and remains high till midnight, he explained.

“While we expect consumption to grow further, we want our users to practice responsible streaming, in addition to social distancing. With a majority of the Indian workforce now operating from home, sudden spurts could congest networks and cause issues for those working or requiring the Internet for essential services,” cautioned Roy.