‘Why TV news biz and Bollywood are losing their audiences?’: Dr Anurag Batra

Dr Annurag Batra looks into the reasons why the two industries are losing their audiences.

Dr Anurag Batra points out towards the ground reality, Indian TV news business and Bollywood and  are facing.

Founder, Exchange4media Group & Editor-in-Chief of BW Business World, Dr Annurag Batra looks into the reasons why the two industries are losing their audiences.

Two years ago during the first twelve months of Covid pandemic in 2020 came up as a winner in news channels and the same appeared as loser in cinema halls, along with the extension of Hindi cinema.

People were compelled to be glued on to news channels In the first one year of Covid, for getting info about the deadly virus, to understand what is happening around and also for getting solutions and updates. The Covid event was too huge keeping  the audiences go glued to news on Television expecting and exploring if there is something for them in the  store. No doubt, the news channels also rose to the occasion.  The reporters, the cameramen, along with TV newsroom professionals worked overtime for ascertaining they news real-time news in public interest.

On the other hand, cinema halls, burdened with the restrictions, were shut down, whereas the OTT were ruling the mainstay of entertainment. These platforms did present a successful option offering a plethora of new & interesting content, thus making the viewers accustomed to having the experience of watching in the safe confines at their places.

Then the life got back to its original form as it was before and the face-to-face/physical economy returned, credit certainly goes to the Indian government for the vaccination drive. The post-Covid era now witnesses the advent of the experiential economy. Along with weddings, hotels and restaurants, parties, malls, airlines, offices, school-collages all came back almost with a vengeance, still the North Indian cinema halls did not appear to be going in pace with this trend promptly.

Even after the lifting of the Covid restrictions, people were kind of reluctant to enter into cinema halls in North India, whereas in contrast, the South Indian cinema kept continuing to thrive with hits one after the other. The stature of the South Indian blockbusters soon got bigger and bigger, and here credit goes to their record collection at box office. This draws in record footfalls at theaters as movie lovers did not hesitate to throng cinemas to watch the films. Pushpa, RRR and PS1 came up as the blockbusters and more popular in comparison with the past standards where the biggest Bollywood hits were not even close.

This is what makes us think here at this juncture, what is going on and what are the reasons effecting the differential performance of Bollywood in relation to the cinema from south India. All the real cinema aficionados love to watch movies in a cinema hall enjoying the complete impact. But during the Corona phase there were very few people usually in cinema halls, and it was a matter of concern.

People in the industry wonder what is happening, and why? It looked as if the charm of Bollywood is no more shining.

On the other hand, news channels continued to do well along with their  revenues intact to be steady. Actually as far as the revenue is concerned, it grew in the first twenty one months during Covid. Still, post-April 2022 the viewership of some leading news channels witnessed a drop.

There is certainly a lot requiring a lot to be done for improving ratings making it tamper-proof. Nevertheless, the worrying fact shows, going through ratings research, news channels and TV viewership is not growing.

Now investigation for the factors responsible seems required. there are people who watch news two-three hours a day. They can live without cinema, but not without TV news. For many it’s their job too to watch news, but more importantly, there are people who enjoy tuning into news TV.

In the historical context, Indian TV news business appears dependent on four Cs –  Crime, Cricket, Cinema, and now Cacophony…or in other words the TV debates in studios. Then what has gone wrong about news in TV which is not helping it grow with audiences?

There may be an issue with the way audience measurement is organized. The system also does not look favoring entertainment channels. In fact, there is a need of proper viewership rating mechanism which can serve on all media industry bodies wielding a clout and credibility.

One of the celebrated media leaders also questioned the viewership decline with some basic questions even in terms with  the entertainment TV content.  The same question should be raised by all news television platforms being the basic questions. The question is loud and clear – Why is the news TV viewership shrinking?

One more question is also exploring an answers – What are the reasons behind not growing of the TV viewership universe? Every one in the News and TV industry has to find the answer for this.

As such what it looks like is, the reasons behind not growing of the TV news audience is the same what the Bollywood is encountering being not able to pull audiences in the cinema halls.

The first and foremost reason behind this sinking viewership is sticking to old formulas of doing business. The content does not carry the fragrance of freshness, it is not being reinvented also not being invested  in content that is deep. There is a huge requirement of re-invention for the TV News industry as well as the Bollywood to come out of the discouraging scenario.

New challengers are there awaiting the arrival of new talent and ideas. More experimentation is needed and yes the boldness of content has to be showcased. If this comes out as a hit, keep expanding it. Both the industries have to stop taking shortcuts.

Audiences, both in news TV and Bollywood, are eager to taste new blood with newer taste. Viewers are consuming video content online which are only digital being bold and honest. The same goes without saying for the  Bollywood too. The newer directors have started experimenting with bold themes with unhesitant scripts taking up real time taboo issues which can  appeal to audiences.

TV News industry has to be multiple times larger than now. They need to  invest in their people, cover an event with new style, nurture the anchors as much as possible with new branding techniques for for pulling audiences. South cinema does truly inspire Bollywood through its sheer scale, production quality, investments along with the marketing blitzkrieg.

Both the industries are expected to be real and honest with the audience measurement system about their actual viewership. You can improve only when you can properly measure. The teams along with the entire ecosystem has to pay attention to the need of the hour. We have to get real for the real solutions.

(The realistic analysis is based upon the notions of Dr Anurag Batra)