Home / News / India /  Film, music channels likely to take content digital as viewers move online

New Delhi: After the closure of several English entertainment TV channels upended by the rise of video streaming platforms and the New Tariff Order, TV channel genres such as films and music may also look to digitise their content catalogues as viewers move online.

While most large broadcast networks already own over-the top (OTT) video services, media experts say other TV channels too will have to make their libraries available digitally to remain in the business.

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While a few English language entertainment and film channels, such as WB, HBO, and Sony Pictures’ AXN and AXN HD, have already shut down, the latter has also discontinued its music channel Sony Mix.

“With covid, people have been moving to digital and the movie genre has seen falling numbers. Why would anyone watch films on TV when you can watch the same without ads on OTT?" said Manish Shah, director, Goldmine Telefilms that owns Dhinchaak, a TV channel for Hindi films.

Shah is doubtful of the longevity of his channel given that Internet data is becoming cheaper and smartphones are penetrating small towns. His films are already seeing big viewership numbers on his YouTube channel. “Any company not moving online will be out of business," Shah said.

Gurjot Shah Singh, senior vice-president and national media head, Dentsu Webchutney said audiences moved towards OTT and audio streaming platforms from traditional linear television during the lockdown with a 15-20% increase in viewership across OTT and YouTube. Along with the subscription model gaining traction for offering ad-free content, several streaming services are also benefitting from being bundled with telco packages and pre-paid plans.

“No fresh content (during the lockdown) and no new movie releases were the main reasons for the shift (of viewers). Moreover, with films releasing on OTTs before they make their way to TV and music becoming available on streaming platforms, it seems reasonable that people are more inclined to invest in new subscription services," Singh said.

According to a study conducted by Dentsu in a small sample of 570 respondents (GenZ and millennials) in urban India in September 2020, Amazon Prime Video remained the most preferred entertainment platform (30.6%) followed by Netflix (29.6%) and Hotstar (18.07%).

Although overall digital viewership increased during the lockdown, the surge came from the 16–37-year-olds, also the primary audience for movie and music channels.

This was accompanied by a massive behaviour shift from tier-two and tier-three towns, where the OTT industry has grown by three or four times respectively as compared to the 2.5X-2.7X growth in tier-one cities, he added.

Broadcasters such as Zee and Sony did not respond to Mint’s queries, while Viacom18 and IN10 declined to comment. However, in an earlier interview to Mint, Neeraj Vyas, senior executive vice-president and business head, Sony SAB and Sony MAX had said the pandemic should be a time to reflect on the fact that films are only being made for multiplex audiences nowadays, alienating both single screen and TV viewers.

“OTT platforms are creating the push for a new business and opportunity and I don’t think fighting that is a long-term reality," Vyas had said.

TV channels in the music genre are also vulnerable, given the rise of music streaming apps like Gaana, JioSaavn and Spotify. “Music channels have no unique proposition, unless they do reality content like MTV," Shailesh Kapoor, founder and CEO at media consulting firm Ormax said. Kishan Kumar M.S., chief growth officer, and south head at media agency Wavemaker India agreed: Music channels have faced an identity crisis for long but now they have specific challenges in terms of viewer interest and content, he said.

“Indian audiences are loyal to their television channels but in a few years even TV content will be considered OTT because every OTT platform carries TV channels," said Markand Adhikari, chairman and managing director of the SAB GROUP that owns music channel Mastiii. “It is preferable to subscribe to three to four OTT platform rather than a bunch of TV channels. That’s why pay TV channels have no future," Adhikari said adding that the company is working on strengthening its digital front.

Lata Jha
Lata Jha covers media and entertainment for Mint. She focuses on the film, television, video and audio streaming businesses. She is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. She can be found at the movies, when not writing about them.
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