Ratings agency BARC India has heralded a change by reporting rural TV viewership data, giving an impetus to broadcasters and advertisers alike to identify and target the markets and consumers they want to, as a result, providing an opportunity for more FTA entertainment channels.
With BARC highlighting the viewership that was not being captured earlier, one can clearly see the extent of penetration of FTA channels.
Identifying the potential of this vast market and seeing a whole new untapped chunk of audience, many broadcasters have refined their FTA channel strategy. As a result, in recent times, one has seen either some pay channels giving up subscription revenues to adopt an advertising-led model or have new launches, especially in the Hindi movie genre.
The three genres that have benefited from rural ratings are Hindi movie channels, news channels and general entertainment channels. In fact, three of the top broadcast networks have recently launched their FTA movie channels, namely, Sony Wah from Sony Pictures Networks India, Rishtey Cineplex from Viacom18 and Star Utsav Movies from Star India.
Similarly, the Hindi general entertainment genre too, has witnessed a shift. With rural data, FTA channels like Zee Anmol, Star Utsav, Rishtey and Big Magic saw a spike in ratings.
Most of the FTA GECs air re-run content from their pay siblings even as pay channels identify the rural appetite and develop storylines to cater to the masses.
Observing the trend, Mallikarjun Das, CEO (India) at Starcom Mediavest Group, says, “50% of TV households are in the rural market, but the entertainment options for them are limited. In general entertainment and movies, there is an opportunity for channels to create an FTA model and not lose revenue as re-run content will not cannibalise the urban revenue.”
When it comes to news channels, Paritosh Joshi, CEO, India TV, says the editorial business needs to generate revenue outside of just ads and turning FTA is a short-sighted way of looking at things, but the channels are getting desperate in a bid to attract eyeballs, and thus, revenues.
It is this very thought that forced two big news channels — Zee News and NDTV India — to turn FTA recently. In fact, Zee News gave up a big chunk of its subscription revenue to turn into an FTA channel.
However, industry experts state inclusion of rural data is unlikely to immediately impact ad spend allocation as advertisers look at viewership trends within specific target markets and not at overall ratings.
Advertising clients and agencies still have their focus more towards the urban audiences. The bulk of the buying is still done on the basis of urban numbers but with BARC increasing its penetration in the future, this situation could change.