Back on FTA, Big Four draw viewers & advertisers alike

According to broadcasters, FTA channels are a good way for brands to reach out to consumers at a good pricing

e4m by Sonam Saini
Updated: Sep 22, 2020 8:27 PM

The Free-To-Air (FTA) space has turned into a more competitive arena since the comeback of major broadcasters on DD FreeDish this June. Channels like Zee Anmol, Sony Pal, Star Utsav and Colors Rishtey, which were re-launched on DD FreeDish on June 3 after winning MPEG-2 slot bids, have been witnessing viewership as high as what they used to enjoy in the pre-NTO period.  

According to BARC data for Week 19-22 (before return of the Big Four), Dangal was the leading channel with 2,74,17,085 viewing minutes, followed by Big Magic with 16,22,751 viewing minutes. The other channels among the top five were DD National, DD Bharati, DD Retro and Manoranjan Grand. Now, post the re-entry the data for the average of week 33-36 shows Star Utsav has emerged as the leading channel with 2,25,62,666 viewing minutes, followed by Zee Anmol on the second spot with 1,73,72,880 viewing minutes. (Market: HSM (U+R), TG: 2+, Platform Type: Free)

 Comeback Kings 

 Speaking about the re-launch in FTA, Ashish Sehgal, Chief Growth Officer - Advertisement Revenue - ZEEL, said coming back into the FTA space has helped the network substantially in the recovery and it's the right market from the advertisers’ point of view. “We have seen an immediate interest from advertisers when the channels were launched. Now we need to establish the right price as the next phase of growth will be from the rural audience set. It was contributing around 5-7 per cent to the overall revenue pie earlier and we will try to bring a similar kind of contribution back.”

The other FTA channel that the network owns - Big Magic - continued to be on FreeDish even when the broadcaster pulled out its other channels. “Though our ratings were good compared to what it is today it was never at the level that Zee Anmol was giving us. We were operating at 120 GRPs and it has come down to 60-70 GRPs now for Big Magic. However, Zee Anmol is in the lead. For a network, as a combination that’s a growth. We haven't reduced our pricing so much on the channel even though the GRP has fallen. We have created a combo package so that we can decide our overall pricing and continue to grow rather than focusing on one channel individually. There will be an impact on the revenue on Big Magic but as a combination it will be a much larger game,” Sehgal added. 

 He also informed that the network was looking at expanding the content offering on Big Magic that currently focuses on content for kids and male viewers. 

 If we talk about the current week, as per BARC’s week 36 data, in the Hindi GEC overall market and across platforms, Star Utsav continues to lead with 12,57,178 impressions followed by Star Plus with 9,78,450 impressions. While Zee Anmol is on the third spot with 7,35,556 impressions, Sony Pal and Dangal are on the fourth and fifth positions with 6,77,549 and 6,26,027 impressions respectively. 

 Similarly, on free platforms, in week 36, Star Utsav led the list with 8,05,765 impressions followed by Zee Anmol with 5,50,398 impressions and Dangal maintaining its third position with 4,40,633 impressions.  

 According to a Star Utsav spokesperson, the channel’s audiences have enjoyed the content week on week making it the preferred entertainment channel. “We will continue to bring the audiences bigger and better offerings.”

 On the relaunch of Colors Rishtey and Rishtey Cineplex, Mahesh Shetty - Head, Network Sales, Viacom18, said: “We have received very strong traction from advertisers. We are going big on inventory on all our FTA channels. In times like these where brands are also rationalising, FTA channels are a good way for brands to reach out to their consumer at a good pricing.  Both of our FTA channels that we re-launched, Colors Rishtey and Rishtey Cineplex, are doing extremely well both in terms of viewership and monetization.”

 Meanwhile, Kranti Gada, COO, Shemaroo Entertainment says the four GECs after their comeback in FTA have taken a very high viewership share. “I cannot deny that the viewership data speaks for itself but these channels have huge content banks and they're also well-known brands. However, we feel that while in the short run this may impact our viewership, in the long run it will help strengthen the DD FreeDish platform itself. We are happy that more consumers will be attracted to the platform which will also increase the interest of the new advertisers to come on free TV platforms. The overall advertising pie will increase in the FTA space and we are more than happy to participate in that.” 

 Impact on revenues

“When the viewership gets fragmented, so does revenue. Dangal had a free run because advertisers were approaching the existing channels and these were getting the largest share of the pie,” said Dinesh Singh Rathore, CEO, Madison Media Omega.  

 He further said, “When the big brodcasters came back, the viewership further got fragmented and hence the advertising pie. Now, with some channels losing out on viewership there will also be an impact on ad rates.”

 As per the FICCI EY 2019 report, FreeDish ad revenue plummeted with the pulling out of GEC and film channels. When leading broadcasters removed their catch-up television channels it was estimated that approximately Rs 1000 crore of advertising was being pulled out from FreeDish. 

 According to Shekhar Banerjee, Chief Client Officer & Head – West, Wavemaker India, “One of the most pronounced changes that we have observed in the TV landscape is the emergence of FTA and its role in small towns and rural India. This has enabled many advertisers to minimise their cost to market. It has opened up new geographies for sales. Having said so, the measurable TV universe is roughly 50-50 between urban and rural but the source of business for most advertisers is disproportionately skewed to urban. We will see the contribution of rural to sales going up. So a great story for FTA channels.”

 For Vinita Pachisia, Senior Vice President, Carat, “The re-launch of the FTA channels from the four major broadcasters has seen a huge change in the viewership pattern as there has been a huge spike in viewership. However, this hasn’t necessarily translated in all the revenues being concentrated on these few channels from the four major broadcasters. Advertisers are still experimenting with other channels. This can be attributed to a variety of factors – the channels who have seen huge growth may have also hiked up the rates and vice versa for the channels who have witnessed a huge drop in viewership. Apart from the viewership, pricing also plays a major factor when it comes to the FTA channels and if it doesn’t fall within the acceptable limits, advertisers will continue to look for options outside these major broadcaster channels as there are enough and more no of channels outside these networks.”

 Karan Taurani, VP - Research, Elara Capital, explains, “When these channels went FTA to pay, the advertising revenue came down to 60-70%. Given the current environment I don’t see it reaching pre-NTO levels but by next year Feb-March it will be 70-80% of the revenue benchmark seen before NTO.” 

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