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More the merrier..

This season, more channels will be seen hitting the small screen to entertain India's populace, analyses Rachana Dubey.

tv Updated: Sep 10, 2008, 13:25 IST
Rachana Dubey
Rachana Dubey
Hindustan Times

Indeed, around every corner there’s news of channels which are finessing their acts or are in the incubation stage right now. Quite a few, like a channel on travel which was in its preparatory stage, however, have closed shop.

In effect, 25-30 special interest channels will kick off in the next 18 months. It’s being guesstimated, rather exaggeratedly, that the number of general interest channels will shoot up from the current 350 to approximately 700.

Harsh Krishna Rohatgi of NDTV believes that digitisation has been rapid since the launch of Dish TV. The number of digitised homes have shot up from one million to 10 million in less than two years which is an indication that more and more homes across the country are ready to pay for their home entertainment. <b1>

Moreover, the number of homes in the big metros with two or three TV sets is on the rise. Shantanu Aditya of UTV states, “Lifestyles are changing dramatically. People would love to have something which caters entirely to them. Like we have a youth-based channel for a certain age group only. There are 20 per cent more viewers with digital systems than those who subscribe to cable TV. The analogue system is choked. It needs to be digitalised soon. Otherwise it may become a roadblock for the growth of the TV industry.”

In the months ahead, Zee group is planning to launch a wireless service which will facilitate better distribution. Mobile TV is steadily gathering ground.The licensing process has been relaxed a bit. Anuradha Prasad of BAG Films agrees, “Yes. That’s really encouraging. That means more investment for the industry.”

Choices, choices

But will the clutter of channels lead to a choice dilemma? Right now, an average television home has more than 88 channels on its remote control menu .

Kunal Das Gupta of Sony states, “We have surpassed that stage of the gold rush. Now, we’re heading towards consolidation of power which happens in every industry. At the end of the day, better content will survive. Viewers will pay only for what they want to watch. There will be no more scope for confusion.”

Ajay Vidyasagar of Star has a different take though: “This buzz is like the one for dotcoms. The bubble burst even before we knew it. Half of these so-called upcoming channels may never see the light of day. Quite a few might have to go off the air because of their content quality or simply because they lack purpose. The market has room for more.. but with a certain rationale and USP.”

India’s population of 1.1 billion — with half the number being under the age of 25 — is now the advertiser’s dream demographic.

Moreover, with about 15 million new television sets sold every year, the number of households with a second set is rising rapidly, making room for niche channels.

Advertising revenues may be more thinly sliced than they are right now. Shantanu Aditya of UTV agrees, “Wastage in a mass channel is high. There will be more advertisers if there are niche channels.

“Advertisers will be choosy. If an ad is meant for men belonging to a certain strata of society, it will be aired only on channels or during shows which men watch the most. This could mean a dip in the ad revenues for mass channels but overall, there will be growth.”

In fact, the revenue of the TV industry is expected to touch the Rs 600 billion mark by 2012. To repeat the question — do we need clutter of channels?

NDTV’s Rohatgi responds, “At a generic level, the market is under-served. We can still accommodate more channels. We are more than 10 million digitised homes today and counting.”

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