MUMBAI: The landscape of television in India is changing, thanks to the advent of rural viewing figures, which the head of the country's measurement body has described as "a great eye opener".

Reflecting on the experience of the past two years, Partho Dasgupta, chief executive of BARC India, which launched its first data set at the end of April 2015 following a difficult birth process, observed that "inclusion of rural viewership, which was being ignored earlier, has been a great eye opener".

"The industry is now realizing the importance of rural viewership and this has changed the landscape of television," he told Exchange4Media.

"The rise in the number of FTA channels, growth of Free Dish, increase in advertising on FTA channels among other things point towards the changing approach to rural."

In evidence, Dasgupta cited a 13% rise in the number of advertisers on rural-focused channels, with the biggest spike coming in Hindi Speaking Markets (HSM) channels.

"From a 31% share of total advertising, the share of FTA rose to 39%," he reported.

Further, the demographics of rural viewers are attractive: 38% of the rural population is classified in the affluent NCCS A & B groups, while 47% are aged 15-40 years and "it is they who form the belly of rural viewership", according to Dasgupta.

"This shows that going forward, any premium or high-end product targeting need not necessarily be limited to urban anymore."

Dasgupta also observed that, following this year's updated Universe Estimate to reflect recent developments in the consumer and viewer landscape, "we have seen huge changes in the profile of TV viewers, which has had a positive impact on genres".

Other noteworthy changes include significant growth in viewership in certain markets, notably Madhya Pradesh/Chattisgarh, West Bengal and Gujarat/Daman & Diu/Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

"We have also noticed that the younger generation is showing increased interest in TV," he added. "The biggest growth in viewership has come from the 2-14 and 15-21 age groups."

Data sourced from Exchange4Media; additional content by WARC staff