The decision of major broadcasters like Star India, Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), Viacom18 and Zee Entertainment to withdraw their Hindi GECs from the free direct-to-home (DTH) platform DD Free Dish will have major ramifications for the broadcasting sector, according to experts .
First, it will help the small free-to-air (FTA) channels on DD Free Dish to increase their viewership and ad revenue. Second, it could give some sparkle to DD Free Dish offerings and help private DTH operators lure some of the free platform’s customers into the paying fold. Third, it will help the broadcasting industry to stem the decline of the paid universe and protect its subscription revenues in the short to medium term.
With Star Utsav, Zee Anmol, Colors Rishtey and Sony Pal deciding not to be on DD Free Dish, FTA GECs like Dangal, Shemaroo TV, The Q India and Azaad TV are hoping to fill the void left by these channels. The development also offers these channels the opportunity to increase their content offering for the more than 40 million DD Free Dish customers.
A media analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, said India’s pay-TV universe had lost 9 million customers in the past two years due to the pandemic. The availability of options in the form of OTT and DD Free Dish has made it easier for pay-TV customers to switch to alternative platforms.
“The pay universe is down about 6 million TV households in 2021 and about 3 million in 2020. Over the past two years there has been a reduction of 9 million pay TV households. Wouldn’t say that the drop in The Paid Universe was the sole reason for the release of DD Free Dish’s Hindi GECs as it was also a differentiated content offering.The broadcasters were streaming year-old content. putting content on DD Free Dish, broadcasters were following a windowing strategy,” the analyst said.
He further stated that DD Free Dish, with its 40 million and growing base, is here to stay with or without the channels owned by the big broadcasters. He also points out that some customers may switch to pay-TV platforms.
“Price conscious customers won’t switch from DD Free Dish, but some customers might switch to Pay TV since they became addicted to these channels. Even though 10-15% of customers are switching from DD Free Dish to platforms that will more than offset the losses that the pay TV industry has suffered over the past two years, so 15% of 40 million is 6 million, and if that happens it will be back to normal. said, free TV is here to stay because there is a segment of our country that does not want to pay, and they will never pay for any content,” the analyst added.
He also believes that the advertising revenues of the main broadcasters could see a drop. The four chains collectively earned between Rs 1,000 and 1,200 crore. “Broadcasters hope to make up for this loss through subscription revenue,” the analyst said.
According to a veteran media executive, the decision to remove channels from DD Free Dish was made distressed by changes in the distribution landscape. He also said the move by major broadcasters does not bode well for the broadcast industry which faces stiff competition from digital content platforms.
“Pay TV platforms have lost customers to OTT at the high end and DD Free Dish at the low end. But DD Free Dish ensures that customers who cannot afford the services of Pay TV do not leave the TV. Customers today have a plethora of options when it comes to viewing content. If DD Free Dish’s supply becomes low and Pay TV services become more expensive, these Customers still have the ability to consume content on YouTube. The weakening of DD Free Dish could see customers turning to YouTube for free content,” the executive said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The executive also believes that the absence of these four channels will not have a major impact on DD Free Dish as it has become too big to fail. He also said broadcasters are barking up the wrong tree by removing content from DD Free Dish. He argued that broadcasters should think about launching dedicated offers for FTA audiences and not leave the door open for other players to come and take over the market.
“Even OTT has the two types of models which are SVOD and AVOD. There is a need to have a dedicated offering for that segment of the market that wants free content. Even DTH operators can consider different offerings for paid and free customers. This move will help DTH platforms buy back DD Free Dish customers Now the question is how big of a subscription revenue gain broadcasters are willing to lose ad revenue that will occur in due to a likely drop in viewership of these channels,” he added. .
He agreed with the view that entertainment channels that remain on DD Free Dish will stand to gain. “This happened last time as well when these channels moved. Dangal was a major winner as it was the only significant GEC on the platform. The release of these four channels will provide an opening for smaller channels on DD Free Dish. It’s not that Star, Sony, Viacom18 and Zee channels will lose a lot of advertising revenue, but there will be some reduction. Some of the advertising could also be moved to pay for GECs,” said said the executive.
Goldmines Telefilms CEO – Broadcasting Joy Chakraborthy believes that smaller networks will benefit from this development. The company operates two Hindi movie channels Dhinchaak and Dhinchaak 2. “The 4 big GECs leaving DD Free Dish will make life interesting for others and especially channels that have sticky content. GECs that have original content would benefit, but I don’t think they have as much original content. I’m sure the Hindi movie genre would benefit. I’m very confident that our Hindi movie channels, which are market leaders by a huge margin and offer such compelling content, will add a lot more viewers,” Chakraborthy said.
Q and MD co-founder Sunder Aaron thinks individual channels will see an improvement in their audience share. He also added that broadcasters might consider filling in the blanks on the DD Free Dish. “Naturally there will be an upside just as Dangal saw growth when those same channels pulled out of DD Free Dish in 2019. We will see an upside and that will allow us to do a bit better for our advertiser clients and our sponsors. It also allows us to improve the channel. Our strategy has always been to be widely available as a free channel,” he said.
Agreeing with the analyst quoted above, Aaron said there will be subscribers switching to pay-TV platforms. He added that it won’t have much of an impact on DD Free Dish, which has had a phenomenal run over the past three to four years. “DD Free Dish’s trajectory will continue to be positive due to the presence of many other offerings on the platform. Why would customers suddenly forgo something free?”
Aaron noted that major broadcasters made the move to protect their subscription revenue which has been under pressure in recent years. “As an industry, the pressure was on big broadcasters to preserve their subscription business. It was also important for broadcasters to keep distribution platforms happy. This preserves our industry on another level by bringing balance. “
He pointed out that India is a single market with different customer groups. According to him, there is a set of audience who spend money on OTT and streaming and therefore do not want to stream TV or do not want to pay for it. “So they want free satellite service and combine that with what they get through streaming and OTT. That could be a higher socio-economic class than what we expect.”
Regarding the likely loss of top broadcasters, Aaron said advertisers will take note of the changing momentum. “Not all of them are FMCG customers who are looking for mass audiences. Many advertisers also look at particular psychographics when doing their media planning, and they know that some of those viewers may follow those channels. on DD Free Dish will see an increase in ad revenue, but these channels won’t suffer much as their viewership will continue to grow on other platforms.”
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