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Reruns of Ramayan, Mahabharat are back with high traction but it's not all good news for TV

A BARC India spokesperson pointed out that with partial lockdowns and limitations on movement in several parts of the country this trend (reruns) is once more clearly visible.

May 27, 2021 / 07:26 PM IST
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Shows like Ramayan, Mahabharat, Best of The Kapil Sharma Show are back on TV as some broadcasters have resorted to reruns due to challenges around content production because of coronavirus-led lockdown.

A BARC India spokesperson pointed out that with partial lockdowns and limitations on movement in several parts of the country this trend (reruns) is once more clearly visible.

"Week 19 (May 8-14) data indicates there is a 73 percent increase in viewing of mythological content (Dwarkadheesh Bhagwan Sri Krishna, Ramayan, Mahabharat) and a 35 percent increase in viewing of comedy content (Best of The Kapil Sharma Show, Akbar Birbal, Ring Wrong Riing) on Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs), when compared to week 14 (April 3-9)," the spokesperson said.

Shows like Ramayan and Mahabharat last year too had seen high traction when broadcasters were facing a similar challenge when TV productions were halted.

According to Broadcast Audience Research Council India (BARC), last year  Ramayan on March 28, which was the opening day of the repeat telecast of the show, saw 34 million viewers log on to their TV sets in the morning slot. The viewership number went up to 45 million viewers on the same day for the evening slot.

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Ramayan last year registered highest-ever rating among serials on Hindi GECs (general entertainment channels) since 2015.

Other old classics too had seen strong traction last year.

And this year too shows  like Ramayan airing on Star Bharat and Colors, and Mahabharat on Star Plus are grabbing the attention of the TV audience.

While the shows are engaging TV viewers, analyst Karan Taurani, Vice-President, Elara Capital said that reruns will create a positive impact this year just like it did last year but the quantum of positive impact will not be as high as last year. "It will be much lesser and that is because lot of the large fiction property shoots have started at alternate locations."

He further said, "The quantum of growth calendar year (CY) 2020 vs CY19 was phenomenally high and CY21 vs CY20 if you compare it will be low. This time viewership number has not been 5x (like last year) it has been 20-40 percent (high) vs CY2019."

This is why he expects minimal growth in ad spends.

Taurani explained that shows like Mahabharat compete with non-fiction properties like Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC). While Mahabharat type of content can see a 5x growth in viewership, when it comes to ad rates it is 1/6th of what a show like KBC commands especially now due to availability of new content, he said.

N. Chandramouli, CEO, TRA, a brand intelligence and data insights company, said that reruns are likely to impact ads in an unfavourable manner.

Even last year, not many advertisers were keen on buying ad spots during reruns.

In fact, industry experts note that broadcasters like Zee, Star, Sony, Colors spend around  Rs 15,000 crore per year on content. And when it comes to monetisation, the channels are largely dependent on advertising. But for reruns, advertisers do not pay the same ad rates.

Taurani pointed out that ad volumes will be slightly lower in April-May as compared to January-February-March because of non-fiction properties not being there. Plus, the entire volume will not shift to shows like Ramayan, Mahabharat.

Even last year during the lockdown, old mythological shows such as Ramayan and Mahabharat had contributed to 43 percent of overall viewership of the Hindi GEC genre, according to 2020 EY report.

However, in the the April to June quarter, approximately 1,200 advertisers had put a complete halt on their television ad spends and many large advertisers had cut their ad spends considerably during the year.

So, reruns may make TV viewers nostalgic but for broadcasters airing old content takes a toll on their advertising revenue.

But some channels are left with no choice as they are unable to offer new content.

Even major broadcasters are wary of lockdown. Zee while announcing Q4 FY21 results had said that while they have bank of new episodes, the challenge will be for regional content where they fear that they may have to resort to reruns if lockdown in Maharashtra extends beyond May 31.

Maryam Farooqui
first published: May 27, 2021 07:26 pm