Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call last Friday for a 9-minute blackout on Sunday drew 119 million viewers across 199 television channels, according to data from the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC).

The actual blackout period on 5 April, however, led to a drop of nearly 60% in television viewership for more than half-an-hour, as compared to previous weeks, and was the lowest recorded since 2015.

Viewers were only asked to light a lamp, candle or shine a mobile flashlight, but are reported to have abandoned television screens from 8:53pm to 9:30pm that night. Data on the prime minister’s address was part of the third report brought out by BARC, the country’s television monitoring agency, along with data and measurement firm Nielsen on television viewing and smartphone usage against the backdrop of the covid-19 pandemic.

Modi’s announcement of a complete lockdown across India last month notched up a viewership of 197 million across 201 channels, which remains unmatched as of now.

The 9 minute blackout call, however, compares well with the Janata Curfew announcement on 19 March which had 83 million viewers across 19 channels, Modi’s address on Article 370 in August (65 million viewers across 163 channels) and the demonetization announcement in November 2016 (57 million viewers across 114 channels) but is beaten by the 2019 IPL (Indian Premier League) finals that notched up 133 mn viewers. Modi’s television appearances generally draw a big audience. His appearance on survival television series Man vs Wild had pushed broadcasting channel Discovery up the ratings chart last year, according to BARC. Discovery Channel had notched up the third spot in the 9-10pm viewing slot when the show aired on 12 August 2019, with 3.05 million impressions. It was the third highest viewership in the slot after Hindi general entertainment channel leaders Star Plus (3.67 million) and Zee TV (3.3 million).

Impressions refer to the number of individuals in thousands of a target audience who viewed an event, averaged across minutes. Household consumption, which accounts for around a quarter of India’s power demand, has gone up during the lockdown.

Electricity demand on 5 April went down from 117,300 MW at 8.49pm to 85,300 MW at 9.09pm. The total reduction in demand was 31,089 MW. Demand started reducing from 8.45pm and minimum demand of 85,799 MW was recorded at 9.10pm. Subsequently, from 9.10pm, demand started picking up and settled around at 114,400 MW at 10.10pm.

Utpal Bhaskar contributed to this story.

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