Discover the Power of TV!


Discover the Power of TV!

World Television Day 2019

Atif Sheikh

“The problem with television is that the people must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen; the average American family hasn’t time for it…for this reason, if for no other, television will never be a serious competitor (to radio).” This was the commentary New York Times made after television was introduced to a broad spectrum of the American public at the World’s Fair in 1939.

But, time proved this analysis wrong because the same people about which the NYT said that they don’t have time to watch television, did so for, on average 4 hours 27 minutes during the first quarter of 2019. Moreover, 126 million American households own a TV set which means 307 million American have this facility at their homes.

And, this situation is not with USA alone; the whole world is under its spell. In 2018, average daily viewing time for television stood at 2 hours and 55 minutes in the 94 countries studied by Eurodata TV Worldwide for the One TV Year in the World report. In other words, people watched television, on average, for three and a half days per month on a stretch. Moreover, in 2017, as many as 1.3 billion households worldwide, almost 80 percent of the world’s total households, owned TV sets. The ratio of such households in developed states is almost cent percent but for the developing ones, it stood at 69 percent. At present TV signals reach all corners of the globe. And, with this growing penetration, television has become like a member of a family and it now plays a critical role in decision-making processes. Acknowledging this fact, the United Nations General Assembly, on 17 December 1996, proclaimed 21 November as World Television Day. It was like an acknowledgement of the role television could play in keeping people informed and in affecting and shaping public opinion.


Television, indubitably, is the biggest invention of the 20th century and it has emerged as a powerful medium of communication. Its presence and role as a powerful change agent cannot be overlooked. What we watch on TV, affects our attitudes, behaviours and thought processes. Pakistan is also among the countries where television is hugely popular. As per the results of a survey conducted by Gallup Pakistan, on average a television viewer in Pakistan spends 2 hours daily watching television (117 minutes). This result translates into 14 hours of television viewership per week, 56 hours in a month and 672 hours annually. If we deduct 9 hours from 24 hours of a day, we have 15 hours of active time out of which we spend two hours watching television. In other words, an average Pakistani spends 12 percent of his active time watching television.

A comparison of TV viewership duration in Pakistan with global trends can be had from Media Consumption Forecasts 2017, a report by a London-based organization Zenith. According to the data given in the report, Saudi Arabia is the country where people spend most time watching television as in 2016, the Saudis watched television, on average, for 404.7 minutes a day. Bosnia and Herzegovina was at the second place with this duration standing at 333.2 minutes while Romania with 322.5 minutes was at third position. Pakistan was 47th on this ranking. On the index of most average length of TV viewership, out of the top 10 countries, there were Muslims, Saudi Arabia (First), Kuwait (7th) and United Arab Emirates (9th).


According to Gallup Pakistan Media Survey 2017, nearly 67 p percent Pakistanis claim to watch Television. Among them, 74 percent were regular viewers, 21 percent occasional viewers and 5 percent were casual viewers. Similarly, as per findings of Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2017-18,

50.6 percent of ever-married women in 15-49 age bracket while 55.4 percent of such men watched television at least once a week. This ratio among women belonging to rural areas was 36.9 percent while in urban areas it was 70.7 percent. Likewise, the ratio of watching TV once a week was 68.3 percent in men from urban areas while it was 46.8 percent in rural areas. The highest prevalence of watching TV among women was in Islamabad (77.5 percent) while the lowest was in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (26.9 percent). As for men, highest ratio was among those in Islamabad (81.8 percent) while the lowest was in Balochistan (34.1 percent). Regarding the availability of television sets, the PDHS says that 62.8 percent of country’s households had them – 86.4 percent in cities whereas 49.1 percent in rural areas.

Besides being a resourceful medium of information, knowledge, and entertainment for its viewers, television is an important source also for advertisers (who market their products) and a revenue source for the organization. In addition, this industry provides, directly or indirectly, employment opportunities to millions of people. A fair idea of the significance of television in monetary terms can be had from the fact that TV industry generated 366 billion British pounds in revenue in 2016 alone whereas the sum total of TV advertisements during the last year was nearly US$ 200 billion. Situation in Pakistan too is no different; during 2017-18 advertisements worth 38 billion rupees were broadcasted through television which accounted for 46 percent of total media advertisements in the country. It is apt to mention here that total budget of television advertisements in 2002 was merely Rs 2.66 billion. It was the time when doors of Pakistan were opened for private satellite channels with the establishment of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) which issued 4 satellite TV channels in the private sector. Owing to which amount spent in terms of advertisements reached Rs. 3.28 billion and in 2016-17 this amount reached an all-time high to Rs. 42 billion.

During the last 15 years, since the establishment of PEMRA, electronic media in Pakistan has grown exponentially from many aspects. By building infrastructure and equipment for broadcasting, this sector is playing a pivotal role in creating employment opportunities for the country’s youth aspiring to join the field of media. As per Economic Survey of Pakistan 2018-19, the total investment in media industry in Pakistan was estimated at US$ 3.5 billion and this sector provided employment to more than 200,000 people in domains like journalism, management and technical services. Moreover, this huge investment has had positive impact on the promotion of media production houses and advertisement agencies, as well as performing arts. At present, licenses have been issued to as many as 99 satellite TV channels out of which 26 are dedicated news and current affairs channels, 37 for entertainment, 18 for regional languages, 4 for specialized subjects, one for health, one for sports and one for agriculture. In addition, 4007 licenses for cable TV and 5 for internet protocol TV have been issued. Until March 31, 2019, the number of registered TV sets in Pakistan was 19,138,693 which means on average there is one TV set for 11 people. The number of television viewers as per 2017-18 annual plan is 135 million – 65 percent of the country’s total population ­– out of which 74 million are viewers of satellite and cable TV channels whereas 61 million belongs to the category called terrestrial viewership, i.e. those who use traditional TV antennas.


Despite large-scale changes in its technical spectrum, television is still a part and parcel of everyday life. Since the introduction of new technologies and innovations, a lot of improvements have been made in this field and today a plethora of newer, innovative technologies are being introduced almost daily. First, analog terrestrial TV dominated the market but it was dethroned by digital cable TV in mid 2010s. And, it, too, is being challenged by direct-to-home (DTH) and digital terrestrial television (DTT) and it is expected that by 2021digital TVs will be present in almost 98 p percent of households around the world. Likewise, it is not the broadcast technology that is thriving rather TV hardware too have undergone a sea change. And, today, the original idea of television is undergoing a big change. A rapid rise in the use of smartphones and tablets has upended the traditional idea of what a television is. It is due to their smaller size and a number of added features, including faster connectivity through the Internet, that smart TVs are gaining immense popularity in the market – of all the TV sets sold around the globe in 2018, nearly 70 percent were equipped with smart technology.

However, despite all these advancements, mobile devices, e.g. smartphones, tablets and laptops, are emerging as a serious challenge to the existence of TV sets and their viewership. A fair idea of this can be had from a Zenith report according to which the worldwide use of mobile internet data at present is around 130 minutes, up from 80 minutes in 2015. Currently, an average time of 136 minutes is spent using social media with devices with mobile internet or broadband connectivity – it was 90 minutes in 2012. So, more and more spending of time on social media is eating up the share of other form of communication, e.g. newspapers, magazines, radios, cinema and TV ­– the biggest victim in this case. According to Zenith’s Media Consumption Forecasts 2016, the average time spent on watching TV, in 2010, was 1901. Minutes that has fallen to 170.1 in 2018. Likewise, the time spent on reading newspapers has fallen from 201.1 minutes to 11.9 minutes, while that has also declined for magazines (from 11.7 minutes to 5.2 minutes), radio (from 60 minutes to 52.2 minutes) and cinema (from 1.7 minutes to 1.2 minutes).

Pakistan, too, is facing a similar situation because 93.9 percent of households in Pakistan possess mobile phones – 97.5 percent in urban areas and 916 percent in rural areas. Moreover, 72 percent of mobile users in the country have smartphones. It is now a common observation that people spend a lot of time using these devices. Television industry has, time and again, proved that it has the ability to adapt to new technologies and assimilate to changing viewership trends. Although television, contrary to many technologies has worldwide presence and it has a place in the lives of people in all parts of the world, growing attention towards social media with the use of mobile devices has become a daunting challenge for the television industry.

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