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CAS conundrum: Free-to-air channels gain

16-March-2007
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CAS conundrum: Free-to-air channels gain

Broadcasters and advertisers have a mini-war waging at present because of the some of the figures seen in regards to Conditional Access System (CAS). The poor implementation of the system has resulted in pay channels losing 70 per cent connectivity in those areas of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata where CAS has been implemented. At the national level, this works out to an impact of 2 per cent.

Where pay channels have lost, the free-to-air (FTA) channels have gained. This may be one reason why players like NDTV have gone FTA recently. Advertisers are taking note of this too. Hindustan Unilever’s GM, Media Services, Rahul Welde, asserted that FTA channels had gained with the arrival of CAS. He said, “FTA channels have definitely gained. In fact, I am surprised that many experts are still in the zone of ‘we still understand’, ‘this has minor impact, etc.’ and so on.”

Reliance ADA Group’s Media Head, Sandip Tarkas, agrees with Welde. And Sam Balsara, Chairman, Madison Communications, added, “FTA channels have scored!”

Elaborating more on this, Carat Media’s CEO Charles Berley Jenarius said, “Households who have not invested in either a set-top box or a satellite dish will now consolidate across free-to-air channels.” Added R Gowthaman, MD, MindShare (South and West), “There are some gainers too because of CAS. A couple of channels have gained more than 5 per cent in connectivity and it will start indicating in their channels shares as well.”

Does this change the way FTA channels were used in any media plan? “Yes,” said Tarkas, “We will watch the time spent very keenly and re-evaluate our portfolio accordingly.” Added Welde, “It logically follows since they are gainers at present.”

Balsara said that FTA channels are more in the reckoning now than before.

Gowthaman explained, “Like I said, CAS adoption on the back of expanded TAM universe will definitely result in a considerable shift/redeployment of media monies across channels. Our analysis done so far clearly indicates that some of the channels' dominance in delivering reach as well as frequency needs to be re-looked at.”

Channels have a slightly different view here. Even as STAR India’s Paritosh Joshi does agree that STAR Utsav has grown by about three times since the advent of CAS, Zee Entertainment Enterprise Ltd’s EVP, Sales, Joy Chakraborthy, is of the opinion that it should not make much difference. He said, “Yes, FTA channels will gain, especially in homes that have not managed to get a set top box. However, I don’t know if this would drastically show in numbers.”

Observed SET India’s Rohit Gupta, “Viewership is too fragmented today anyway and it could be that some niche channels will see some increase in numbers because of CAS. However, even as FTA channels will grow, I don’t know if it would really be big enough to talk about.”

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