Return of Doordarshan: How Ramayan and other 90s reruns made DD a lockdown favourite

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India’s state-owned broadcaster Doordarshan has taken people on a nostalgic trip during the coronavirus lockdown. It has made us revisit our collective past with reruns of iconic shows from the 80s and 90s.  Back then, the world was slower, entertainment choices were limited, and leisure mostly meant a family gathering in front of the TV set. Doordarshan was integral to Indian lives. Be it news, learning or entertainment

From much-celebrated adaptations of epics like Ramayan and Mahabharat to other mythological shows such as Shri Krishna, Uttar Ramayan, Vishnu Puran, and Chanakya, it has gone all out to entertain millions of people locked indoors. 

Not only has Doordarshan succeeded in attaining record viewership in the last few weeks, but it has also generated massive online chatter ranging from memes and video grabs to nostalgia posts from viewers.

The buzz around these shows and the social media reactions have led to an increased brand recall for Doordarshan. In April, ‘Ramayan’ also became India’s most searched term in the entertainment category, according to SEMrush .

“The current buzz around Doordarshan has resulted due to rise in viewership driven by the reruns of the immensely popular mythological shows. The high emotional and nostalgic value attached to these shows, the lack of fresh content on mainstream channels owing to a halt in the production, along with the scarcity of other outdoor family entertainment options are the key reasons for their popularity in current times.”

Record viewership numbers

In the very first week of reruns, Ramayan episodes got 42.6 million tune-ins and garnered 6.9 billion viewing minutes on average, according to Nielsen and the Broadcast Audience Research Council

DD National also became the highest-watched channel in India for the week ended April 3. Since then, Doordarshan’s leadership position among Hindi General Entertainment Channels (GECs), which account for a lion’s share of the TV viewership in India, has continued unabated. 

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