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According to data from television monitoring agency BARC, TV viewership in India was 43% higher than pre-covid days at the peak of the lockdown.. Photo: iStock
According to data from television monitoring agency BARC, TV viewership in India was 43% higher than pre-covid days at the peak of the lockdown.. Photo: iStock

Broadcasters see value in new channel launches despite covid

  • Broadcasters and media experts say these are part of long-term plans of strengthening the overall portfolio of companies and expanding into segments they are not yet present in

NEW DELHI: The setback to the television industry and viewers' shift to digital platforms notwithstanding, broadcast companies still see value in new channel launches.

Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd is out with two new channels -- lifestyle channel Zee Zest and Marathi music channel Zee Vajwa.

Dangal, the channel owned by Enterr10 Television Network has expanded its footprint into the south Indian market with the launch of Dangal Kannada, close on the heels of its Bhojpuri offering Enterr10 Rangeela.

Star Vijay, owned by Disney-Star, has launched a Tamil language music channel, Vijay Music. Broadcasters and media experts say these are part of long-term plans of strengthening the overall portfolio of companies and expanding into segments they are not yet present in. It is also the best time to launch new offerings as the viewer, working or studying from home, is likely to have more time on hand and be open to new content as the media consumption space evolves for TV and digital to co-exist.

According to data from television monitoring agency BARC (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 it 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. These viewers seek experiences from around the world but from the comfort of their own contexts," Amit Shah, cluster head, North, West and premium channels, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd said.

A lifestyle channel has a wide scope for association with brands, Shah added. It could serve as a platform for brands to reach a focused upmarket, elite target audience besides leveraging a strategic first-mover advantage in the coming months.

Kishan Kumar, vice-president at media agency Wavemaker pointed that companies like Zee can also benefit from synergies with their streaming service (in this case, ZEE5) with their content getting 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 (NTO) by Trai last year allowing 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. WarnerMedia International has shut down the HBO SD (standard definition) and HD (high definition) linear movie channels while Sony Pictures Networks India has discontinued AXN and AXN HD. Disney India too is planning to cut back on its TV business including taking Star World off air.

Yet others laud the resilience of the TV medium. Shah said television 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.

“We have all witnessed the strength and role of television as a medium during this lockdown. While these are tough times, the industry is already on its path to recovery. Advertisers have also started returning to advertising on television and the festive season will further boost growth," Arpit Machhar, head of marketing, Enterr10 Television Network said.

Regional markets have tremendous potential and scope with many of them underserved that poses a viable opportunity for expansion to networks like Enterr10 that are keen to expand their presence beyond the Hindi-speaking belt, Machhar added.

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