Is COVID-19 the litmus test for English entertainment channels?
Industry experts believe post COVID-19 the genre can sustain on the back of original content, innovative formats and more Indianized programmes with focus on Metros
While COVID-19 has brought in a spike in OTT viewership, it has turned out to be a challenge for English entertainment channels. The extensive OTT library of content across genres and languages seems to have led international content TV viewers to switch sides or at least weigh the options.
Sony Pictures Networks India recently announced that it was discontinuing its English general entertainment channel (GEC) AXN and AXN HD.
Unlike the Hindi GEC or regional GEC category, which caters to large audiences, English GEC rather has a small set of premium audience. And with the shift of this section of viewers from TV to Digital, first because of the NTO regime and now the COVID-19 induced conditions the road ahead for English GECs has proved to be trickier.
Industry experts say while there are multiple factors that has put the category under pressure competition from digital platforms could be the main reason.
Divya Karani, CEO, dentsu X India explained that the category has been under tremendous pressure for the past one or two years on account of losing its audience to OTT platforms. “Content consumption behaviour has changed. With the evolution of OTT, content now is available as per the convenience of audiences. The availability of OTT on smartphones gives the flexibility of watching time and does not restrict viewers from a single TV household to wait for the TV remote. The ad free atmosphere on OTT gives an added advantage.”
Meanwhile, the English entertainment channels are not just losing out on audience but on advertisers’ interest too. Since the category caters to a small set of audience planners believe it can be reached out through other platforms to, say industry players.
H Vishwanath, Managing Partner, Mediacom, shares that COVID-19 could be a larger reason now but English GEC has been in trouble even two years ago. However, these channels do have a couple of good shows but at the end of the day those TV dramas cater to a very small set of audience. "India is the country where most of the time we are trying to reach lakhs of people and we come to television as a medium to get reach and awareness. I'm not really surprised that channels have fallen off the radar of media planners and clients. When times are good it really doesn't matter, clients can always buy multiple channels in the category but today it's like money for jam. Every marketeer is trying to get the best out of what one can get,” Vishwanath explained.
He further shared that the English entertainment took a hit two years ago when consumers started shifting to digital. Even today, they have varied options to watch English content on any of the OTT platforms. “I won't say that all of them will go away but they will have a tough time. It's a vicious circle, they need to invest in content to get some business."
The broadcast industry was hit by TRAI’s new tariff regime last year and the English GEC negatively impacted along with some other genres. According to the FICCI EY Media and Entertainment report 2019, English Entertainment’s advertising volume dropped by 50% with the assumption being that English and lifestyle audiences moved away to relatively more affordable OTT products.
According to Karani, “Post NTO, the genre has seen a decline of almost 70% in viewership. This has resulted in the genre going to the bottom in the preference list of an advertiser. Having said that, original content like Masterchef Australia, Koffee with Karan or Game of Thrones (GOT) make advertisers keen to ride that bandwagon.”
Sharing similar thoughts was Girish Menon, Partner and Head, Media and Entertainment, KPMG in India. “The implementation of the NTO has been challenging for the English channels with reach and market share of the genre shrinking due to a drop in uptake. The situation has also prompted some broadcasters to rethink their strategy for English Entertainment.”
However, Menon said the lockdown phase did bring some eyeballs to these channels. “During the lockdown, the viewership of the English Entertainment cluster expanded by as much as 34% (based on BARC data for Week 20 vs Week 2) with Non-Prime Time viewership contributing majorly to this growth.”
But, he also cautioned that while the scarcity of other entertainment options in the near term is likely to help these channels sustain eyeballs, it may not translate into a corresponding increase in revenues for the broadcasters. “Also, post-normalization of the COVID situation, other avenues for entertainment may open up especially outdoor entertainment and coupled with continued competition from digital OTT video, which has also gained significant traction during lockdown, we may potentially see the English entertainment genre dropping down to pre-COVID levels in terms of viewership and face significant challenges in terms of remaining relevant.”
On possible ways to bounce back or at least stay afloat, Karani said, “The genre can sustain on the back of original content which is non-duplicated on OTT or with a TV-first approach. The genre should also consider bringing more Indianized content with focus on Metros.”
Currently, there are 11 English entertainment channels in India including AXN and AXN HD, which are set to go off air from July. The rest includes Colors Infinity, Colors Infinity HD and Comedy Central and Comedy Central HD from the Viacom18 umbrella; Star World, Star World HD and Star World Premiere HD from Star India; and Zee Cafe and Zee Cafe HD from Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL).
Shekhar Banerjee, Chief Client Officer, West-Head, Wavemaker India, says: "The English GEC genre is under tremendous pressure from digital content producers and SVOD players for some good time now. Even during the lockdown while we have seen English movies and infotainment gain significantly, we have not seen similar trends in the English GEC. In comparison, global OTT players with rich English content have gain massively. With increasing play of global content and same time release on SVOD, the genre on TV needs to rediscover, even evaluate exclusive rights and original content. The question is can they invest so much?"
Sharing the bright side of it, Kartik Mahadev, Business Head, premium channels, ZEEL says: “At a macro level, interest in English content is seeing a steady increase. This can be attributed to growth in English education and English-speaking audience leading to content adoption as part of their consumption repertoire. For the three years pre-NTO, viewership on English GEC genre has grown by almost 250 per cent, as per BARC India data. The changing viewer behaviour and content choices are fuelling a transition within the category. For instance, the viewer behaviour today is to binge-watch their favourite shows and vocalize their preferences, adding to digital chatter in a seamless manner.”
Zee Café introduced binge-watching as a format as early as 2015 with Season 3 of ‘House Of Cards’. Subsequently, it offered binge as format with some of their marquee properties such as ‘BBC First’ and ‘Breakfast To Bed Binge’.
Mahadev further added, “When it comes to OTT, content discovery is and will continue to pose a challenge to viewers looking to unwind with quality content. A typical viewer ends up surfing endlessly to explore content that best suits their tastes. This is where television channels that understand their consumer and curate well, delight the viewers. Curated content on television makes for effortless viewing. Thus, we don’t expect to be impacted significantly in the near future. As of now they exist, and we exist, and they are not making so much of a dent on TV viewership.”
Another broadcaster who wished to remain anonymous said the assumption is that the audience for TV and OTT is similar but on OTT a majority of such premium content is behind the paywall with no access to advertisers too. “Even if they're watching, what does that have to do with the advertiser? Advertisers have a very good option still on television through these English medium channels. But the way agencies are planning their budgets English Entertainment channels are not in their priority nor do they advise their advertisers or clients. The current situation is understandable as they are trying to put the money looking at maximum ROI.”
On the challenges that the category is facing, Mahadev said: “The challenge we face is finding creative and innovative solutions that deliver value to both the consumer and the customer. Now with the choice of platforms and content increasing, we as broadcasters need to be even more choiceful of the content we pick, tailored to evolving consumer preferences. Our customers benefit from the association with premium international content that they are not able to directly associate with on digital due to restrictions behind paywalls. We need to deliver solutions that provide value to our customers through synergies of the premium subscriber base and premium, exclusive content, and together with our partners.”
The biggest driver of growth for the English genre is creativity and innovation, Mahadev points out. “In the long run, regional markets will undoubtedly lead growth for English entertainment. There is a whole set of audience moving from regional to English content as they become more comfortable with English as a professional and conversational language.”
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India Today recorded 181.8K concurrent users on YouTube Live on Budget day
The same day, Aaj Tak stood tall with 147.4K concurrent users on the platform
By exchange4media Staff | Feb 1, 2023 2:03 PM | 1 min read
India Today recorded 181.8K concurrent users on YouTube Live on February 1, the day the Union Budget 2023 was announced.
As per the data for the day from 11:00 to 12:30, Aaj Tak recorded 147.4K concurrent users.
In January this year, Aaj Tak became the first news channel globally to cross 50 million subscribers on YouTube.
Aaj Tak started its digital journey by launching its YouTube channel in 2009, and started streaming news live on YouTube for the first time in 2017.
“India Today TV has not only broken all its records with a dominant No.1 position in live YouTube viewership on Budget Day 2023, but emerged as the channel with maximum concurrent users across Hindi, English and Business TV news channels on YouTube,” the network shared.
India Today TV recorded average concurrent of 143k live concurrent users and peak concurrent of 182k, they mentioned.
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NTO 3.0 likely to come into force today: 80% DPOs sign up for new regime
Stakeholders say they are optimistic that NTO 3.0 will be implemented today as majority of DPOs, including DTH operators, have already notified consumers about the price hike
By Sonam Saini | Feb 1, 2023 8:57 AM | 3 min read
After a delay of two years, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) New Tariff Order (NTO 3.0) is finally expected to come into force today.
exchange4media has learnt that TRAI on January 19 issued a letter asking all stakeholders to follow the notification issued by it in this regard.
According to Siddharth Jain, Secretary General, Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF), more than 80% of operators across the country have already signed up with broadcasters under the new pricing regime.
“This is an extremely encouraging start under the NTO 3.0 regime, and we expect others to also sign up over the next few days,” said Jain.
A senior official of a cable company, on the condition of anonymity, shared that NTO 3.0 will come into force today as most DTH and other cable operators have already communicated to their consumers that prices will increase on February 1.
While broadcasters revised pricing and filed their RIOs in December last year, some of the DPOs are waiting for the decision of the Kerala High Court in this matter.
Cable operators and DPOs have been at loggerheads with TRAI ever since the regulator issued amendments to the NTO in January 2020. Cable operators believe that NTO 3.0 will have a negative impact on their subscriber base. In fact, the All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) last month submitted a petition against NTO 3.0 in the Kerala High Court, requesting a stay on its implementation. The court, however, refused to grant a stay on the order and scheduled the case for hearing on February 8.
"The new pricing will increase consumers’ cost by at least 20-30% and cable operators will have to face the heat of this price hike. The cable TV operators who are members of AIDCF will await for the court's decision on February 8, 2023," said a source close to the case.
Meanwhile industry sources share that prices of TV channels have remained frozen for over five years, despite increased offerings by broadcasters in the face of increased price of all goods, services including the cost of production and content. “It's not a price increase, it's a long-overdue correction,” said the source.
He went on to say that TRAI has held consultations and deliberations on NTO 3.0 with all stakeholders in the value chain, including broadcasters, DPOs, LCOs and consumer groups. The Amended Regulatory Framework 2022 reflects the issues presented by the authority and on which submissions have been invited and received. In the spirit of moving towards an environment of regulatory forbearance, broadcasters are supporting the authority, said the source. In the revised pricing, broadcasters have increased the price of some bouquets by 10-15%.
Cable company executives, on the other hand, claim that they have been losing customers over the last three years, and that the implementation of NTO 3.0 will exacerbate this trend.
Speaking on the concerns of DPOs, another industry expert shared that broadcasters are responsible for providing quality content that spans multiple genres and languages. “Today's consumers have a plethora of options to choose from, and their decisions are influenced by a variety of factors. Pricing alone cannot be a factor determining this choice.”
In the amended NTO, the regulator restored the Rs 19 MRP cap for the inclusion of TV channels in a bouquet and also allowed broadcasters to offer a maximum discount of 45% while pricing its bouquet of pay channels over the sum of MRPs of all of the pay channels in that bouquet.
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DD Free Dish e-auction methodology announced for MPEG 2 & 4 slots
This has come into effect from 27th January
By exchange4media Staff | Jan 31, 2023 11:23 AM | 1 min read
The e-auction methodology for allotment of slots of DD Free Dish to private satellite TV channels has come into effect from 27th January, 2023.
The reserve price for MPEG-2 slots that are up for auction are as below:
Bucket A+ Rs 15.00 Cr
Bucket A Rs 12.00 Cr
Bucket B Rs 10.00 Cr
Bucket C Rs 7.00 Cr
Bucket D Rs 6.00 Cr
Bucket R1 Rs 3.0 Cr
The MPEG-2 slots has been categorised under various buckets.
The reserve price for the first round starts from Rs 3 crore and goes up to Rs 16.20 crore.
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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:
- education and spread of literacy;
- agriculture and rural development
- health and family welfare;
- science and technology;
- welfare of women;
- welfare of the weaker sections of the society
- protection of environment and of cultural heritage; and
- 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:
(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.
- 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.
(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.
(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.
- 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
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
The media industry is once again abuzz with speculations that big broadcasters are all set to participate in the MPEG-2 e-auction of Prasar Bharati’s free direct to home (DTH) platform DD FreeDish.
According to reliable sources, Disney Star, ZEEL, Culver Max Entertainment (previously known as SPNI), and Viacom18 plan to bid for the DD FreeDish slots in the upcoming auction for their Hindi General Entertainment Channels (GECs) like Star Utsav, Zee Anmol, Sony Pal and Colors Rishtey.
"We are expecting that Prasar Bharati will soon notify the auction date for MPEG-2 as they have already announced dates for MPEG-4. We will have more clarity once they notify us with the details," said a senior executive of a leading broadcaster on the condition of anonymity. He also stated that the number of available auction slots is likely to be around 89, with the possibility of an increase.
Prasar Bharati has notified the allotment of MPEG-4 slots of the DTH platform through fifth annual e-auction process which is tentatively to be held on February 16. The pubcaster is yet to notify the MPEG-2 auction, which usually takes place in March.
The big four broadcast networks chose to withdraw their Hindi GECs from DD FreeDish in March 2022 last year. The decision, as reported by exchange4media, was taken due to pressure from pay DTH platforms such as Tata Play, Airtel XStream, and Dish TV. Pay DTH platforms have been losing subscribers to DD Free Dish, which has grown into a TV distribution powerhouse with over 40 million customers. However, since the withdrawal of the Hindi GECs from the platform, broadcasters have faced a loss of ad revenue due to a drop in GRPs, even as subscription revenue has remained under pressure due to the migration of customers to alternate platforms such as DD Free Dish and over-the-top (OTT) video streaming.
"There are high chances that broadcasters will bid for DD FreeDish slots and bring back their Hindi GECs, but we have to wait and see. Once the notification is issued, we will have more clarity, but yes, channels may return to the platform," said another senior industry professional.
"I am confident that they will bid and bring back their Hindi GECs on DD FreeDish. All of the channels that have left FreeDish have suffered in terms of revenue and viewership. It will be worthwhile to return to the platform. The viewership that the channels receive from the free market is enormous, and the only thing that can deter people from returning to the platform will be the base price/entry price," said a senior executive of another leading TV network.
According to broadcast industry sources, in the current scenario, advertising revenues are under pressure and broadcasters are unable to meet their targets. DD FreeDish or digital are taking away advertising revenue from linear broadcasters.
Punit Goenka, MD & CEO of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL), in the earnings call for Q2FY23, shared that the DTH industry's subscriber numbers have been rapidly declining over the last two years. It has decreased from 58 million subscribers to 53 million subscribers. “This was the sole reason for us to withdraw because we were seeing a lot of the DTH subscribers migrate to DD FreeDish.” A large part of the FTA revenue flows directly down to the bottom line and has an impact on our EBITDA, said Goenka.
Prasar Bharati earned Rs 645 crore from the allocation of 58 MPEG-2 slots on its DTH platform in March last year. This is a 12% decrease from the pubcaster's previous e-auction, in which it earned Rs 731.34 crore from the sale of 57 DD Free Dish MPEG-2 slots. The exit of key channels such as Star Utsav, Zee Anmol, Sony Pal, Colors Rishtey, Star Utsav Movies, and Sony Wah was the major reason for the revenue drop.
Prasar Bharati has invited applications for allotment of MPEG-4 slots of DD FreeDish platform for the period April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024 through 5th annual e-auction process (66th e-auction). Bidding will be open to all genre channels at a reserve price of Rs 50 lakh per annum. Last year in the annual auction of MPEG -4, 12 channels were allocated MPEG-4 slots on DD FreeDish.
According to experts, DD FreeDish introduced MPEG-2 10-15 years ago and has a first-mover advantage, whereas MPEG-4 is a better technology. Because there is no comprehensive data on the number of MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 set-top boxes, most broadcasters prefer MPEG-2. Experts also claim that MPEG-4 boxes are limited, which limits broadcasters' interest. In fact, the majority of the channels that won the slot in the most recent annual auction were from the news genre.
A total of 63 channels were successfully assigned slots in various genres in the annual auction. The number of channels in the News and Current Affairs category has increased from 11 to 14, while the number of channels in the Hindi Music, Hindi Sports, Hindi Teleshopping, Bhojpuri Movies, and Bhojpuri General Entertainment categories has increased from 13 to 16.
With a reach of more than 43 million households, DD FreeDish has grown to become the largest DTH platform. Doordarshan's free DTH service has grown nearly 100% from 22 million in 2017 to 43 million in 2022.
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