MUMBAI: Two weeks after the first BARC TV ratings to include rural viewership data, India's marketers have made a considered response to the new information and expressed surprise at some of the findings.

For example, 17% of rural India viewers are aged 15 to 21, while only 14% of urban viewers fall into this age range. And in the music and youth genre, rural contributes 44% of the viewership.

In the English entertainment genre, meanwhile, rural viewers account for 41% of the total; and in the English news genre, almost three quarters (73%) of the viewers are people living in non-metros.

"The fact that there is viewership in rural, or even the extent of viewership of English programming for instance, is not surprising," said Shireesh Joshi, head, strategic marketing, Godrej Group of Companies, "but it is the magnitude of it all that one wouldn't have anticipated."

He added a note of caution, telling Afaqs!:  "I don't think marketers will readily accept the numbers as they are, but they will have to accept the fact that there is a lot more appeal in the rural market than one could have thought." 

That element of doubt could lead to Godrej running "pilots and experiments" alongside BARC data in order to "validate our investments", he suggested.

"Overall, the way the various genres and audiences have moved is interesting, but media buying and planning comes down to specific shows and programmes, and we'll have to see how it pans [out] across the next months," he concluded.

In some areas, rural viewers make up more than half the total – including Odisha (65%), Bihar (59%), Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh & Himachal Pradesh (59%), Assam/ North East (58%), Uttar Pradesh/ Uttarakhand (55%), Rajasthan (54%) and Andhra Pradesh/Telangana (53%).

"Media strategies may need to have a sharper rural focus," noted R S Sodhi, managing director, GCMMF Ltd, marketer of Amul, as these are all key markets for the dairy producer.

From a media buyer's perspective, Vanita Keswani, ‎COO at Madison Media Sigma, observed that, as expected, free-to-air channels had performed well in rural areas and added that "the pecking order of most shows across channels is not very different across rural vs urban".

Data sourced from Afaqs!; additional content by Warc staff