With more television channels reaching out to grab more eyeballs, the experts and critics can’t help asking the questions- are these many channels sustainable? Do we see consolidation happening?
TAM, the organisation that keeps the score on TRPs (television rating points) is already monitoring 350 channels. With UTV and Peter Mukherjea backed INX Media launching as many as seven channels and more expected from many other players like Viacom-18, BAG Films, the mushrooming of channels is clearly visible in an industry that has established players in Zee, Star, Sony and NDTV in the north with their own bouquets of channels, in addition to regional networks like Eenadu, Sun and Asianet.
“Unlike in the past, we will see seasonal winners in the television space, much like it happens in the West, where the rating difference between the top two channels is very less. Gone are the days of complete supremacy of one channel," Peter Mukerjea, chairman of the INX group, told the annual FICCI-Frames conference on the entertainment and media industry said last week.
It is often said to highlight the importance of the distribution chain in the show business that if content is king, distribution is God. Most broadcasters say that a lot of money goes towards carriage fees for new channels owing to choked bandwidth of the old-world analog technlogy system to ensure a new channel gets noticed. It is estimated that a new channel will spend close to Rs 1 crore a month as carriage fees. It is no surprise then that broadcasters are pushing for digitisation of the television industry. The Conditional Access System (CAS) involving set-top boxes hasn’t been very successful as an early attempt at that, while DTH (direct-to-home) as a similar platform is also only slowly gatherin momentum.
Sunil Lulla, director, Alva Brothers Entertainment Pvt Ltd, which is now gearing for its own channels, said, “Consumers have to be at the centre of decisions, not the marketplace. It is also necessary to understand to have a central idea and build on it. The audiences want to be entertained, even from a news channel.”
Most industry experts also foresee a shakeout in the market with a lot of clutter and little differentiation. "Consolidation is a given in a market which is seeing such a lot of volatility", said Mukerjea.
Anuradha Prasad, managing director of BAG Films said, “It is necessary for a channel to follow a guerilla strategy, trying to make use of all available platforms (Internet, mobile etc) in order to succeed.” She was also optimistic that niche channels will work in the future.