According to research firm EY, free TV viewership (or viewership of free-to-air channels) in India is set to grow exponentially, reaching 46 million households by 2020. In its report titled ‘India’s Free TV – A game changing opportunity’ the firm adds that this viewership will be in addition to the consumption of content on mobile handsets. In 2016, this number stood at 30 million.
An increase in the number of free-to-air (FTA) channels has led to the significant rise in the viewership of certain genres, including Hindi GEC, Hindi movies and, primarily, the Hindi news genre, in which FTA channels now command 81 per cent of the total viewership.
Ashish Pherwani, partner- advisory, media and entertainment, EY said: “Free television is increasingly becoming a viable option for channels looking to capture the base-of-pyramid audiences in urban and non-urban areas. With a large subscriber base, it also opens up new avenues of advertising for marketers looking to get reach in some of the fastest-growing markets in the country. The change in customer behaviour will also have a significant impact on the uptake of FTA and pay TV channels and the corresponding spends on subscription income.”
Currently, rural TV viewers account for 52 per cent of the overall viewership. However, it is estimated to contribute 74 per cent to the total viewership on DD Free Dish.
The report outlines four key factors that will drive the uptake of free television. The first is the digitisation of cable TV under DAS IV that will require consumers, particularly those in DAS III and IV markets, to opt for more expensive cable TV options, DTH or free TV options such as terrestrial TV or Free Dish. EY expects the price conscious customers may opt for free television services in the immediate term.
Additionally, the new tariff order will make customers choose between the options to either pay more to receive pay channels of their choice or decide that free television would be a better option, given the quantum of quality content on it. This will help in increasing subscriptions from price conscious consumers for Free TV.
The growth of DD Free Dish is expected to add to free TV viewership as well. The DD Free Dish bouquet is set to increase to over 250 channels and will now include sports on its spectrum. This makes the Free Dish bouquet a formidable competition to pay bouquets.
Another significant development related to mobile consumption is the emergence of the digital terrestrial distribution. Since this is a broadcast technology, the key implication will be that consumers with mobile handsets having the required antenna would not be required to pay any bandwidth charges. Consequently, once the mobile handset ecosystem matures, this could also provide a strong addition to free television services.