So yesterday, we had a chance to read a Nielsen Report on how media habits have changed as India enters into its 5th week of lockdown. This was an in-depth analysis of what people are watching, what they're doing, who's spending big on advertisements and all the new trends emerging in the industry.

And we had to write about it. Just had to....


The Story

The report first talks about the generic mundane stuff. People are spending more time on television. They are spending more time on their smartphones. Social Media consumption has skyrocketed. And since IPL is no longer on the cards, people are turning to movies and games.

But we are not interested in all that. We want the juicy stuff. So let’s dive right into the juiciest bit of them all.

Part 1—Who’s spending on Ads?

One of the most interesting bits in the whole presentation has nothing to do with consumer behaviour. In fact, it has to do with advertisers. But before we get to that— Pop Quiz.

Who do you think was the biggest advertiser across General Entertainment Channels or GECs (like Star Plus and Life OK) 2 weeks ago?

Don’t know?

Okay, No problem.

It’s HUL — Hindustan Unilever Limited.

This shouldn’t be all that surprising considering HUL sells a ton of soaps, biscuits, tea powder, and cosmetic products. And to be able to consistently push consumers into buying their products, they’ll have to spend a considerable sum of money on advertising. All very reasonable.

Next, we have Reckitt Benckiser — the owners of Dettol and Durex. This is another FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) company  and it's all run of the mill stuff.

But the third biggest advertiser will perhaps pique your interest a bit.

These guys bought close to 3 lakh seconds worth of ad space (across GECs) during the week in question. And I was a bit surprised to see them make the list because "these guys" happened to be the Government of India.

Now granted, it does make some sense for the government to buy ad space right now considering they have to keep pushing out advisories related to Covid-19. But even if you discount the virus, you’ll see that the government spends big on ads. Like all the time.

Anyway, that’s not the big exposé here.

Because there was another entity that bought close to 40,000 seconds worth of ad space during the same period. Another entity you wouldn't expect to see on this top-10 list. An entity that we are all very familiar with—The Reserve Bank of India.

That’s right. We are talking about The RBI aka The Lender of Last Resort aka The Dark Knight!!!

Who would’ve thought eh?

And once we did a bit of digging, we even found that they have these cool ads they made with cricketers like Umesh Yadav and KL Rahul. Anyway, it seems as if they are trying to promote financial literacy and educating consumers about fraud and stuff. So kudos to RBI. Good job!!!

Part 2—Are you watching Doordarshan?

Another interesting bit from the report talks about how people have taken to Doordarshan (DD) of late.

So you’ve probably heard about the rerun of Ramayan on DD post the lockdown. You've probably also seen people take a keen interest in the television series.

And when Doordarshan announced that Ramayan had become the most-watched entertainment show in the world and broke all viewership records (with 7.7 crore viewers) everybody nodded and went — “Wow, Expected.”

Unfortunately, that claim didn’t stack up.

For starters, the final episode of the American TV series M*A*S*H recorded 10.6 crore views — much higher than what DD reported for Ramayan. So clearly, Ramayan did not break the world record.

But it is still a rather impressive number and to keep the momentum going, they launched a rerun of another classic — Uttar Ramayan (tracing the lives of Luv and Kush) as soon as Ramayan came to a close. Unfortunately, viewership numbers have dropped by as much as 46% since the transition.

So DD needs a new TV show to ramp up the numbers once again.

Part 3—The Gaming Gambit

Gaming has also seen a veritable boom since the virus made landfall. In fact, people are now spending close to 3 hrs 45 mins every week on gaming platforms as opposed to the two and a half hours they were spending before COVID (in India).

And as days go by, we are seeing more people cosy up to online games — LudoKing, PUBG, Candy Crush, etc.

But not all games are created equal and not everybody is seeing an uptick in user activity.

Consider Dream 11, a fantasy gaming platform that lets you build virtual squads (sport-related) and pits you against other players on the platform. The key selling point here is that users are awarded scores based on their virtual team’s real-life performance. For instance, if you build an IPL team with Dhoni, Kohli, and Jadeja; and suppose they all score half-centuries the next day when they play at Chinnaswamy stadium, you’ll score a ton of points and maybe even take home some money if you’re participating in a paid tournament.

Unfortunately, post-COVID, Dream 11 has fallen out of favour and it no longer features in the top-8 list Nielsen put out last week.

Why? you ask. Well, simply because you can't build a virtual team when all sporting events have come to a grinding halt. Meaning without real sport, you can't have fantasy sport.

But that's not entirely accurate, because some sporting events are still on.

For starters, you could perhaps bet on Shankar from Chiayi Tigers and build a virtual team competing in the Fantasy Taipei T-10 league. Or maybe you fancy Miranda from Matagalpa. Who knows, you could be the next great virtual manager in the Nicaraguan Basketball League.

The point is — outside these fringe leagues, there’s not a lot happening on the sporting domain and so Dream 11 has seen its numbers plummet.

But here’s the interesting bit. Although Dream 11 no longer features in the top 8 list, one of its biggest competitors, Mobile Premier League (MPL) makes the list easy.

Because you see, unlike Dream 11, MPL has opted to diversify. In addition to hosting virtual tournaments involving IPL, English Premier League, etc., they also host other gaming tournaments.

In fact, last year, the fledgeling startup, hosted the largest chess tournament in India with over 3,00,000 registered players. They even roped in Vishwanathan Anand as the brand ambassador to promote the event. And since people are now taking to online games, MPL offers them a chance to make money by participating in paid tournaments — in Chess, PUBG, and Rummy.

And that’s probably one of the reasons why they’ve seen a major spike in user activity.

Part 4—Buying and Selling now?

The report also had a small section dedicated to trading.

But since this is a topic that’s close to heart, let me preface the discussion with some additional comments.

The market sentiment now is weird. Everybody seems to have figured out the secret to unlocking the stock market and all I keep hearing is how this is the most opportune moment to start buying stocks. But even if you forego this anecdotal evidence and dig into the numbers, you’ll start seeing that more people are in fact trading right now and the increase is quite substantial.

For instance, total trades* at the National Stock Exchange for the month of march tallied up to 41 Crores — a 64% increase over the average number of trades committed over the course of last year. Nielsen also reported that trading platforms are seeing more active users every week (+31%) and that people are spending more time during core trading hours (+5%).

Could this increase be attributed to market conditions?


Is this a fallout of IT engineers, “working from home?”

Could be.

Nonetheless, irrespective of why it’s happening, it’s safe to say that trading is now in fashion and you can’t escape this new reality.

Anyway, I suppose this story has already breached our 3 min mandate and it’s not even a special edition. So we will leave you to it and hopefully you now have a better idea of how India is spending its time during Covid-19.


*Total Trades in Cash Segment

Correction in yesterday's issue: Our article noted the record date as 30th April. However, Reliance has not yet offered clarification on the record date. The error is regretted.

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