Programming for the small screen developed in the early 1980s in India. With just one government-owned national television channel- Doordarshan, there was a limited variety in terms of content. However, the first major production for Indian television came in the form of two series based on their namesake mythology epics - the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. These two series got the entire nation hooked to their television sets on Sunday mornings and are remembered even today as the gamechangers for the industry.
When India liberalized its economy in the early 1990s, the government allowed private investments in television programming and distribution. Under these new reforms, the broadcast media got a boost and many private players, including foreign brands like CNN and Star TV invested in India. Moreover, technological advancements like cable, satellite TV and today's foray into DTH and digitalization have led to the creation of new jobs and skill sets over time. In the period from 2013 to 2017, the number of employees working in the Indian television industry had shot up from about 145 thousand to over 280 thousand.
Consequently, the country had also witnessed a continuous increase in both the advertising as well as the subscription revenues from the industry. In 2019, India’s TV industry earned over 714 billion rupees from subscriptions and advertising revenues put together. This is no surprise because Indians were some of the most regular television viewers globally, with an average viewing time of four hours daily in 2017. Furthermore, television viewership in the country had consistently recorded an upward growth trend and data showed a sizeable headroom for growth. This made it only too lucrative for advertisers and distributors to continue investing in this medium.
Although these are surprising growth figures for an industry considered to be in slow decline globally, the numbers were a clear indication that Indians continued to be glued to their TV sets - whether for their beloved soap operas or the various cricket tournaments. This is not to say that the challenges posed by an increasingly digital world are not real. Big brand channels like Sony and Star India had already made massive investments in over-the-top streaming services, marking the beginning of a digital race within the industry.