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Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

Broadcasters go for broke

  • Broadcasting companies are targeting the WFH crowd.

Broadcasting companies are launching new TV channels, undaunted by a setback to the television industry and a shift of eyeballs to digital platforms.

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd is out with two new ones, lifestyle channel Zee Zest and Marathi music channel Zee Vajwa. Dangal, the channel owned by Enterr10 Television Network, has expanded its footprint into South India with Dangal Kannada, soon after its Bhojpuri offering Enterr10 Rangeela. Star Vijay, owned by Disney-Star, has launched Tamil music channel Vijay Music.

Broadcasters and media experts say these are part of long-term plans to strengthen their portfolio and expand into new segments. It is also the best time to launch new channels as the viewer, working/studying from home, is likely to have more time on hand and try out new content.

According to data from TV monitoring agency Broadcast Audience Research Council, TV viewership in India was 43% higher than pre-covid days at the peak of the lockdown. It has stabilized since then, but is still 22% higher than the pre-pandemic period.

“Our aim has always been to expand into segments where we see an unmet opportunity to cater to the consumers’ content preferences. We identified a need gap in the lifestyle genre to serve a holistic entertainment experience to the burgeoning middle class, whose appetite for aspiration is growing," said Amit Shah, cluster head, North, West and premium channels, Zee Entertainment Enterprises.

Kishan Kumar, vice-president at media agency Wavemaker, pointed out that companies like Zee can also benefit from synergies with their streaming service (in this case, ZEE5) with content shared across platforms. “Some of these launches may have been planned earlier but simply delayed because of covid. Companies might have made adjustments on how they plan to break even and make recoveries though," Kumar added.

Among TV’s biggest challenges has been the introduction of the new tariff order by Trai last year, which allowed viewers to opt for individual channels instead of the pre-determined bouquets offered by broadcasters. This led to a surge in cable bills, and saw several young urban audiences move online.

According to a KPMG report, owing to the dismal first quarter of this financial year when broadcasters were making only 15-20% of their last year’s earnings, TV ad revenue will see a 17% drop.

But broadcasters swear by the resilience of the medium. Shah said TV and digital cater to different content needs and consumption occasions. Digital is not cannibalizing television viewership, and TV’s mass reach is unparalleled. With Zee Zest, the company is using a dual strategy to reach consumers across both platforms, further making it an attractive proposition for advertisers.

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