Television (TV) remains the largest media platform in India, both in terms of reach, as well as consumer engagement in terms of time spent. TV reached 210 million households in 2020, as per the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) TV Universe estimates, translating into 900 million individuals who watch TV. This user base far exceeds any other media platform in the country, outlining the large reach that TV enjoys.
The rural penetration has historically been low owing to socio-economic concerns, grid electricity issues and the relatively higher cost of TV infrastructure in remote areas of the country. However, with the infrastructure improvements and rising per capita disposable income, rural TV penetration in India has significant headroom for growth, and along with the continued Pay TV growth in urban markets, the TV penetration in India is likely to steadily grow.
The proposed growth is benchmarked to the US market, which saw an overall TV penetration of 85% at peak maturity; and Southeast Asian countries with a similar GDP per capita and have TV penetration close to 80-95%.
The Growth of Television in India – A Significant Runway Ahead
As outlined by the statistics around ownership and viewership, TV remains highly relevant in
India despite the steep growth witnessed by digital platforms in last four years. Even during the hyper growth phase of digital consumption (especially aided by COVID-19 tailwinds), the TV households have witnessed a gradual increase, and more importantly.
While there was a spike in TV viewing during COVID-19 induced lockdowns, the average daily
time spent on TV stands at 3 hours 34 minutes in 2022; and is close to the pre-pandemic level,
despite significant investments by Over the Top (OTT) video platforms on digital content. This, coupled with the fact that TV is an ideal medium for family viewing, outlines the importance of the medium in meeting the daily entertainment needs of the Indian viewer.
We estimate 248 million households consuming linear television in 2026. This implies a TV penetration of 76% in 2026, compared to 70% in 2020. Bulk of the growth in TV households is likely to come from the rural markets, which are underpenetrated at 61% of the total rural households.
We expect the growth to be divided between towards Pay TV and Free to Air (FTA), with DD FreeDish expected to touch 52-55 million households, while high fresh content volumes and affordability of TV means that an increasing number of households are likely to jump onto the Pay TV bandwagon.
Our estimates also assume a certain churn out from DD FreeDish towards upgrading to Pay TV, with rising disposable income across the board. This resultant increase in Pay TV penetration is likely to be attractive to advertisers with them being able to reach a larger number of individuals.
TV enjoys Dominance Over Other Media Platforms
TV enjoys an overall reach of 900 million compared to the 450-500 million monthly active users of digital in 2022 – thus exceeding the reach of digital platforms by a significant margin. TV reach, while larger than that of digital, also has the advantage of being more inclusive, spanning various NCCS, age groups, and gender; which would take a fair while for digital platforms to catch up to.
The dominance of TV is in part due to that TV lends itself well to family and co-viewing with certain genres like sport made for TV. Key genres of content like movies and sports in particular are produced for the large screen, with the viewing experience significantly enhanced as compared to the smartphone screen.
Further, aspects like family and appointment viewing can be best experienced on TV. Family remains an important part of the social fabric in India, and the 97% 19 of TV households in India being single TV, lends credence to the importance of family viewing.
The adoption of connected TV in India is nascent at 10 million owing to low fixed broadband penetration and relatively higher entry costs. This coupled with structural impediments around cord cutting, implies that TV will continue to dominate as a media platform.
Cord cutting remains a nascent phenomenon in India
Cord cutting in India remains a relatively nascent phenomenon, unlike the US or UK. There are an estimated 0.5 million cord cutters in India at present, which is 0.2% of the overall TV universe. It is estimated that 13 million households will cut the cord by 2026, which at 5% of the projected TV universe would mean a large majority of the Indian population looking at TV as their primary source of entertainment in the medium to long term.
While digital consumption has been growing rapidly in India, especially after the launch of 4G services, TV continues to be the preferred mode of video content consumption for a majority of the populace.
This article was first published in the report Sports broadcasting on TV – A match made in heaven.