Industry leaders on recalibrating media landscape in COVID times

At a recent webinar Sunil Lulla, BARC; George Varghese, Indian Express; Abraham Thomas, RBNL, Avinash Pandey, ABP News Network & Pradeep Dwivedi, Eros, shared insights on the COVID-19 impact

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: May 16, 2020 9:11 AM  | 5 min read

“TV has always been the screen of the households and during the lockdown period it is only growing,” said BARC CEO Sunil Lulla on Friday. He was speaking at a webinar organised by the Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry on ‘Recalibrating the Media Landscape’ and the impact of COVID-19 on the Media and Entertainment industry. 

The other panellists included George Varghese, Group CEO, Indian Express; Abraham Thomas, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network Limited (RBNL); and Avinash Pandey, CEO, ABP News Network. The webinar was moderated by Pradeep Dwivedi, CEO-India, EIML (Eros International Plc).

Sharing more insights on the current trends on total TV consumption before and during the COVID-19 or lockdown, Lulla shared data about the total TV viewership growing by 24% in week 18, recording 1.10 trillion viewing minutes. However, he said that viewership is now gradually seeing a drop after reaching a high of 40%.

“India has not seen such phenomenal viewing in years and unfortunately it is probably the lowest time for advertising. TV has witnessed a drop of 30% in advertising volume and lower than 36% in 2019 for the same period. Last year, we had IPL and its absence this year has impacted advertising. The count of advertisers has dropped by 35%. TV during lockdown rocks but business does not,” he added.

Speaking about the print and print digital business, Varghese shared that Print has seen a major impact of COVID-19 and the effect will be felt for a long time. Print is no longer going to be the same, he said.

Citing examples from the western media, Varghese said print circulation started dropping 7-10 years back with digital pageviews increasing. This put ad revenues under pressure for Print. There was tough competition between digital native publishers like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post. “In the last two and half years, the scenario has gone from bad to worst. Fundamentally, circulation is down, pageviews are slow, but ad revenue has not kept pace with pageviews increasing. The print and digital business works differently. For instance, the publisher gets the entire ad revenue in case of print but in digital 80-85% of the revenue goes to platforms like Google and Facebook. The digital native publishers have gone for cost cuttings due to huge losses with legacy publishers equally in trouble.”

However, Varghese said there was a silver lining in the way New York Times decided to go behind the paywall. “It was not an easy call but today they have made huge profits.” 

“Till about a month back, despite circulation and advertising money slowing down, print was a reasonably profitable business. Corona hit us badly. Unlike television, our distribution has got stuck. In term of print, ad revenue has been affected by 70-75%.” The print businesses will have to shift to digital and the window for this transition is very limited.

Speaking about the impact on the radio business, Thomas said the general assumption has been that radio is consumed in cars and since no one is travelling because of the lockdown the radio industry has been hit. However, he stated that as per latest data, 52% of radio consumption happens on mobile. FM Radio has garnered a reach of 51 million during the lockdown, he said. There has been a 28% increase in time spent in six metros and the hike is across the SEC. “Also the credibility of radio is higher than any other media except the Internet. In terms of advertising, it has been slow across media. Clearly the way forward is to be agile and innovative in the way we run our business.”

Speaking about the impact of COVID-19 on news broadcasting was Avinash Pandey who said that the news genre has grown from 7% to 15% in this period. “Impressions in Hindi news have gone up by 136% whereas the FCT has gone down by 32%. In the country where news is freely available on different platforms charging subscription for news is really a tough challenge but people in the news industry need to find a model to charge subscription on digital and as well as on television to balance this out. This crisis has taught us a lesson of not to be dependent on one revenue stream.”

He also shared that ABP network has done a lot to keep their reporters safe. “The news channel has invested in kits which are required while reporting from red zones, educating employees, and at the same time educating millions of audiences.” Pandey also suggested that the virus has impacted the industry badly and many businesses will go out of business. It will help if the government allows newer categories like alcohol to advertise, he added.    

Pradeep Dwivedi, the moderator, also shared some data on the digital industry and said there has been a massive increase in internet consumption during the lockdown. “All OTT platforms are seeing huge amounts of consumption. Keeping bandwidth in mind, we have reduced the resolution from HD to SD so that the content can be accessed by the masses.”

Speaking about the trends in the digital space, Dwivedi shared that the engagement with religious content has seen a substantial increase. He also mentioned that categories like airlines, automobiles and travel have cut down their expenses but that these categories will bounce back. “Interestingly, there are categories which are spending a lot more on digital than earlier. Also OTT has become the first screen for movie releases and the theatrical window is out for a few months now.” The industry needs to work together to make sure nobody loses out its money, he concluded. 

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Will NTO 3.0 come into effect on February 1?

Experts believe the amended order is unlikely to be implemented tomorrow because a case against it is pending in the Kerala High Court, which will come up for hearing on February 8

By Sonam Saini | Jan 31, 2023 9:08 AM   |   5 min read


The broadcast industry is just one day away from the deadline for the implementation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (TRAI) new tariff order (NTO) 3.0. However, speculations are rife that the order may not see the light of the day yet as a case against it is pending before the Kerala High Court which will be heard on February 8. The case was filed by the All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) in the first week of January, requesting the court to stay the implementation of the order. However, the court declined to issue an interim order and instead scheduled the case for February 8.

"NTO 3.0 is unlikely to get implemented on the ground since the matter is sub-judice. The Kerala High Court has not granted a stay, but it will hear the case on February 8," a cable operator said.

A senior executive of a leading broadcaster too shared the same thought. "All broadcasters have revised their pricing and submitted RIOs but most of the DPOs haven’t. Though there has been no announcement from TRAI on whether NTO 3.0 will be implemented on February 1 or not, we believe it is unlikely to be implemented because of the AIDCF petition in the court," he said.

The amended new tariff order was issued by TRAI in November last year. The NTO 3.0 reinstated the Rs 19 MRP cap for TV channel inclusion in a bouquet and also allowed broadcasters to offer a maximum discount of 45% when pricing its bouquet of pay channels over the sum of the MRPs of all pay channels in that bouquet.

While broadcasters have welcomed the amended NTO, distribution platform operators (DPOs) have expressed concerns. Cable operators believe that NTO 3.0 will drive customers away from pay TV towards DD FreeDish and over-the-top (OTT) platforms.

In its petition, AIDCF has requested the court to issue directions to TRAI to examine the new order and fix maximum retail price for television channels genre-wise and place a maximum cap on the price of any channel in order to ensure the orderly growth of the digital cable television sector as mandated by the TRAI Act, 1997. The federation had told the court that TRAI has failed to consider and address the foremost challenge faced by the entire broadcasting and cable services industry and that they are witnessing constant decline in subscriber base for MSOs and DTH operators. 

Meanwhile, following the amendment of the NTO, broadcasters such as ZEEL, Sun TV, Discovery Communication India, Disney Star India, Viacom18 and Culver Max Entertainment revised their pricing in December last year and filed their RIOs. DPOs, however, are waiting for the Kerala High Court’s decision and are yet to publish the new pricing. According to industry sources, most of the DTH operators will be publishing new pricing before February 1, 2023.  

TRAI’s data shows that in the last eight quarters, the total active number of DTH subscribers has decreased from 70.99 million to 68.89 million. Similarly, the number of total active subscribers of major MSOs/HITS operators, having more than a million subscribers, has decreased from 47.58 million to 45.55 million.

Not just AIDCF but several other local cable operators too have raised similar concerns over the implementation of NTO 3.0. 

In a letter to TRAI Secretary V Raghunandan, Kolkata- based LCO RK Communication has said that they are facing serious problems since digitization and despite repeated correspondence with TRAI they are yet to receive any solution from their end.

“We are strongly demanding the withdrawal of the NTO 3 implementation during this time of economic recession period. NTO 1 was not at all a success. When NTO 1 was launched, we lost 30%- 40% of our customers. We are scared that if NTO 3 is launched, the same thing will happen. So, our demand is to first resolve the issues related to our business,” the LCO said in its letter.

They requested that a regulation for OTT platforms must be framed and a level playing field should be ensured. The LCO also mentioned that live channels on OTT platforms should be withdrawn immediately. RK Communication also demanded that a licence fees for OTT platforms should be implemented from immediate effect.

It further asked for a new policy for pay channels sharing percentage. “We demand 50% commission for LCOs on every pay channel.” 

“We also demand that no pay channel should be aired on DD FreeDish and on terrestrial. Our demand is first to resolve the issues of the cable operators with a proper discussion over the table regarding NTO-3,” their letter read further.

A similar letter was written to MIB Minister Anurag Singh Thakur by Fibernet Operators Federation.

"Cable operators are concerned that this (NTO 3.0) will have a negative impact on their subscriber base and end customers," said an industry expert.

“Because the price difference between OTT and TV is still very large, a price increase of 8-10% will have no effect on TV. Although NTO implementation on February 1 appears unlikely, NTO 3.0 will go into effect," he added.

The All Local Cable Operator Association Delhi (ALCOA INDIA), which is a representative body of Local Cable Operators (LCOs), also wrote another letter to Anurag Singh Thakur on January 30. In the letter, they said that implementation of NTO 3.0 will result in shutting down of Cable TV business leading to loss of approximately 1 million jobs.

They have requested Thakur to stop implementation of NTO 3 in its current form and to relook into its provisions. They have also requested to put a cap on all the channel prices for the overall benefit of the subscribers along with other demands.


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MIB tells channels to undertake public service broadcasting for at least 30 mins in a day

The order comes into effect on March 1, 2023

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 30, 2023 7:06 PM   |   3 min read


The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has directed satellite TV channels to undertake public service broadcasting for a minimum period of 30 minutes in a day on themes of national importance and of social relevance.

The themes listed by the government are:

  1. education and spread of literacy;
  2. agriculture and rural development
  3. health and family welfare;
  4. science and technology;
  5. welfare of women;
  6. welfare of the weaker sections of the society
  7. protection of environment and of cultural heritage; and
  8. national integration


        In a statement issued in this regard the ministry further stated, the Private Satellite TV Channels need to undertake the Public Service Broadcasting in the following manner:

        1. Content:

        (I) The list of themes of national importance and of social relevance given under clause 35 of the Policy Guidelines are indicative and may be expanded to include similar subjects of national importance and social relevance such as water conservation, disaster management, etc.

        (ii) Broadcasters have the liberty to modulate their content. The relevant content embedded in the programmes may be accounted for Public Service Broadcasting. However, it should be done in a manner that the overall objective of the Public Service Broadcasting may be achieved.

        (iii) The content can be shared between the Broadcasters and could be repeat telecast on one! several TV channels.

        (iv) A common e-Platform may be developed as a repository of relevant videos or textual content from various sources for the purpose of Public Service Broadcasting, which may be accessed and used by TV Channels.

        1. Accounting of Timing:

        (I) The content need not be of 30 minutes at a stretch. It could be spread over smaller time slots. The time for which the Public Service Broadcasting content is telecast in between commercial breaks shall not be accounted for the 12 Minute limit for commercial breaks.

        (ii) The time for the content under Public Service Broadcasting shall be accounted cumulatively on monthly basis i.e. 15 hours per month.

        (iii) The time for transmission of the relevant content shall be flexible except that any content transmitted from Midnight to 6:00 AM shall not be accounted for under Public Servicen Broadcasting.


        1. Reporting:

        (i) Voluntary compliance and self-certification would be the guiding principles.

        (ii) Broadcasters shall submit a monthly report on the Broadcast Seva Portal (in the format annexed in Annexure A) on or before the 7th day of the following month.

        (iii) Broadcasters shall include a compliance certificate in its Annual report.

        (iv) Foreign channels, downhinking in India (in languages other than those specified in the Eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution), shall be exempt from the obligation of Publc service Broadcasting.

        (v) The channels broadcasting predominantly (more than 12 hours) sports and devotional! spiritual! yoga content shall be exempt from furnishing the monthly reports on the Broadcast Seva Portal.


        1. Identification

        (i) The Broadcaster shall keep the record of the content telecast for a period of 90 days.

        (ii) Electronic Media Monitoring Centre, under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, shall keep the record of the content telecast for a period of 90 days.


        1. The private satellite TV Channels, are accordingly, advised to report Public Service Broadcasting in the manner prescribed above, with effect from 1st March, 2023.

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        Viacom18 gets media rights for the first season of Premier Handball League

        The tournament will be covered on JioCinema, Sports 18-1 (HD & SD) and Sports 18 Khel

        By exchange4media Staff | Jan 30, 2023 3:49 PM   |   4 min read

        jio cinema

        Bluesport Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. announced today that Viacom18 secured media rights for the inaugural season of the Premier Handball League (PHL). Viacom18 will provide multi-platform coverage on JioCinema, Sports 18-1 (HD & SD) and Sports 18 Khel.   

        The inaugural season of the Premier Handball League is set to kick off on 8th June 2023 and will run till 25th June 2023. The International Handball Federation has recognised India as the next big destination for Handball. To amplify the efforts of Bluesport Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., Handball Association India, and South Asian Handball Federation, Viacom18 will showcase the Premier Handball League at prime time from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. 

        Viacom18 recently acquired global television and digital rights to broadcast the Women’s Premier League (WPL) from season 2023 to 2027. They are also the digital broadcasters of the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the same period. In addition, the network clocked historic numbers during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 as digital viewership went past TV in India for the first time for a global marquee sports event, with 32mn viewers tuned in to JioCinema on the final day of the FIFA World Cup.  

        Over 110mn viewers consumed the content on digital, making India one of the highest digital viewership markets for the FIFA World Cup as JioCinema continued to be the No. 1 downloaded free app on iOS and Android throughout the tournament.  

        The Premier Handball League is the first professional handball league in India. The first-of-its-kind competition is associated with the South Asian Handball Federation and backed by the Asian Handball Federation and the International Handball Federation.  

        The first season will see six teams go up against each other in round-robin format consisting of 30 matches, followed by three knockout matches to determine the ultimate champion. The 33 matches will be spread over 18 days, and each team will have a minimum of 10 matches. Each squad will consist of 17 players, made up of 14 Indian players and three foreigners.  

        Widely recognised as the fastest Olympic Sport, Handball has a strong grassroots presence in India. Handball’s popularity at the grassroots level is due to the tireless efforts of the Handball Association India. They have ensured that the national team’s ranking at the global level has been consistently rising.  

        Abhinav Banthia, President of Bluesport, speaking on the same, said, “India is growing exponentially as a sporting nation. Handball has a very strong presence in the country, especially at the grassroots level. Our thought behind the Premier Handball League was to help utilise the popularity of the sport by giving it a platform that will amplify sports traction in India. We are glad to onboard Viacom18 as the official broadcast partner, as we believe they will help us package this competition ingeniously so that this unique league becomes relatable for fans. Overall, we believe if you package speed, strength, stamina, agility, technical precision, skill, teamwork and fast-paced action, you come to Handball, and a league for Handball will turn out to be the leading indoor sports league in this country very soon.”  

        Dr. Anandeshwar Pandey, Secretary General of the South Asian Handball Federation, spoke about how the league can revolutionise the sport of Handball in India. He said, “The Premier Handball League will provide the much-needed push Indian Handball has needed for years. It will also help to direct the spotlight on Handball not only in India, but all of South Asia, which I am sure will help boost participation and popularity of the sport. The Premier Handball League has all the necessary elements to be a highly successful competition, especially now that they have announced Viacom18 as a broadcast partner. I am sure the league will grow rapidly as it is set to produce the star athletes of tomorrow for Indian fans to support.”    

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        Repeat telecast? Big broadcasters may return to DD FreeDish

        Industry sources say Disney Star, ZEEL, Culver Max Entertainment and Viacom18 plan to bid for the DD FreeDish slots for their Hindi GECs like Star Utsav, Zee Anmol, Sony Pal and Colors Rishtey

        By Sonam Saini | Jan 30, 2023 8:53 AM   |   5 min read

        Bharat Express news channel unveils signature tune

        The tune that combines classical and contemporary elements will be featured at the beginning and end of each news broadcast

        By exchange4media Staff | Jan 28, 2023 12:01 PM   |   1 min read

        bharat express

        Bharat Express news channel set to be launched on the 1st of February 2023 has announced the unveiling of its original signature tune composed by the biggies of the Indian music industry who have composed for the likes of Gangs of Wasseypur and Kabir Singh. 

        The captivating tune combines elements of traditional Indian music with contemporary sounds to create a unique melody that soothes your ears and ignites your mind. The tune will be featured at the beginning and end of each news broadcast, as well as in promotional materials for the channel.

        Bharat Express plans to come with a bang with a focus on comprehensive news coverage of everything under the sun, from remote villages to the crisis of Venezuela, stock market to onion prices, and gadgets to galaxies.

        The chairman, managing director, and editor-in-chief, Upendrra Rai, said, " Signature tune is the hallmark of any news channel and we have selected this one after rounds of consideration by the music team. We are confident that the tune will become synonymous with the Bharat Express brand and its objectives and will help us stand out in the crowded news landscape; and most importantly, people will connect to it."

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        Shobhna Yadav quits ABP News

        Yadav started her career with India TV in 2003

        By exchange4media Staff | Jan 27, 2023 5:26 PM   |   1 min read

        Shobhna Yadav

        Shobhna Yadav who was associated with ABP News and face of some of the most popular evening shows on the channel has quit.

        Highly placed sources have confirmed this development.

        It is worth mentioning that in the last 40 days, several major steps have been taken to strengthen the editorial and managerial staff of the channel. It is also learnt that the cost efficiency and KRAs of the people working in the organisation are also being assessed and accordingly decisions are being taken.

        Yadav started her career with India TV in 2003. She has also produced a bollywood film ‘Dear Maya’ in  2017 in which Manisha Koirala played the lead role.

        The popular bollywood film ‘Batla House’ is based on the real life story of Shobhna Yadav and her husband Sanjeev Kumar Yadav who is a nine time gallantry award recipient.

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        Gunjan Taneja quits WION as VP & Head of Global Sales

        Taneja joined WION in August 2020

        By Ruhail Amin | Jan 27, 2023 1:45 PM   |   1 min read

        Gunjan Taneja

        Gunjan Taneja, Vice President and Head of Global Sales WION has stepped down from her role.

        Taneja confirmed this development to e4m. She joined WION in August 2020 and was associated with the channel till Novemeber 2022.

        Prior to joining WION, Taneja was Sales Director at Republic World for over three years. She has also served two stints at NDTV and worked with Aidem Ventures and Zee Media in the past.

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