Why broadcasters are undaunted by prospects of live news' exit from OTT

The primary issue at the moment, however, is the confusion around the new IT Rules and whether news should fall under them at all

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published: Jun 1, 2021 8:18 AM  | 3 min read
digital news

In the wake of the new IT rules, as OTT platforms gear up to throw the news bucket out of their content bouquet, news broadcasters don’t appear too worried.

According to experts, while there might be some initial drop in reach or numbers in digital viewing of news, viewers will subsequently switch to other options like the in-house apps, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter for their daily dose of news.

As it turns out, Sony Liv is one of the first movers to remove news from their platforms and others like ZEE5, Voot and Disney+Hotstar are soon to follow suit.

Shouldn't broadcasters be worried?

While both the popular broadcaster bodies NBA and NBF have written to MIB to exempt and exclude traditional television news media and its extended presence on digital news platforms from Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, being uprooted from OTT is not their biggest concern at the moment. Heres why.

“Traditionally news isn’t the most commonly watched category on OTT platforms and the reach cannot be measured for these platforms as well. If a user is interested in our news, there are many other platforms to discover us. Primarily news creates stickiness for these platforms so it might be a bigger loss for them than for us,” said the marketing head of a popular tri-lingual news channel.

Next comes the issue of revenue. Will the absence of news on OTT platforms lead to a sizeable revenue loss for the news business? Industry insiders say no.

“OTTs are one of the several off-platform distribution options where news videos are consumed. While this brings stickiness to the platform, for broadcasters this is a minuscule portion of their revenue. So when the news stops on OTT, the same consumer would move to Youtube or Facebook, which will give the broadcasters better returns in terms of all three matrix views, revenue and subscribers,” said the digital head of one of the top five news brands.

The primary issue at the moment, however, is the ambiguity around the new IT Rules and whether news should fall under the new IT Rules at all.

While NBA has already written to MIB, according to sources close to the development, News Broadcasters Federation (NBF) has sought clarifications from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting as well as the Ministry for Electronics and Information Technology.

NBF has said that news television channels are already governed by the Uplinking/ Downlinking Guidelines as well as the program code of The Cable and Television Networks Act 2012. In addition, NBF member channels adhere to the Standards and Code of their own self-regulatory body, Professional News Broadcasting Standards Authority. 

The new rules would mean dual regulations on the same content being telecast via satellite medium, and the same content being streamed via digital platforms. In this issue, NBF has sought an exemption to news TV channels from complying with the Digital Media Ethics Code.

In addition, NBF has also sought clarifications on digital-only properties being owned and operated by traditional news channels, this source said.

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