FTA GECs bring in revenue despite low ad rates

MUMBAI: The formulation of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) had one big advantage for channels. Regional reporting led to increased viewership for free-to-air (FTA) general entertainment channels (GEC) as well as higher advertiser interest. Star Bharat is the only FTA that has original content while others such as Zee Anmol, Rishtey, Sony Pala and Star Utsav show reruns of popular shows from their main channels. Though low on operational cost, are the channels making money?

Dentsu Aegis Network chairman & CEO - South Asia Ashish Bhasin says that advertisers follow eyeballs, regardless of where it comes from. “Advertisers pay for total target audience. Unlike TAM [the earlier measuring system], rural market is measurable with BARC. It is a fact that many categories are seeing much more growth in rural than in urban since they have reached near saturation in urban markets but rural is untapped.”

FTA channels are available without subscription but are digitally encoded and geographically restricted. According to SAB & MAX cluster senior EVP & business head Neeraj Vyas, “FTA is a zone which is growing and we are looking at a base between 25-30 million homes now. FreeDish is a very important platform to reach out to masses today. We reach out to those homes, which haven’t seen or sampled the kind of television viewed in the country. So, it is a critical platform to reach out to viewers and in turn, the viewers have also loved our content.”

FMCG brands dominate ads on FTA channels. MediaCom national director-buying K Srinivas Rao attributes this to their deep penetration in tier II and III cities. He says that the channels get 75-80 per cent of contribution from FMCG while smartphones, telecom players and two-wheelers have scope too.

For now, these channels don’t seem to be earning much but Vyas expects it to get better. “From an advertising standpoint, I think the bleeding levels will certainly get better. It is a matter of time and things are definitely on the right track. I think most of the channels in this space are making a reasonable amount of advertising money,” he says. Though ad rates are considerably lower, the operating costs are just one fourth of large GECs.

According to industry sources, prime time ad rates of FTA channels are 30-40 per cent of paid TV ones.

Rao believes that channels can make money because their only investment is staff cost even though ad rates are low for reruns. According to Bhasin, the ad rates can improve if these channels can increase viewership and sustain it over time.

Wavemaker India’s managing partner Navin Khemka opines that the FTA channels are high in demand and they are catering to a segmented audience. He added, “The operations costs will only increase as they invest in original content. This trend is on the rise with Star Bharat investing in content. And the results are showing.” He believes that the success of FTA channels is due to DD's direct feed and penetration in small towns and rural India. He also stated that FMCG players are playing a key role in the patronage of these channels. However, newer categories like two wheelers and telecom are also emerging in rural regions.

Sony Pal is currently broadcasting Yam hai Hum, Baalveer, Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, Kuch Rang Pyaar Ke Aise Bhi, Badi Dooooor Se Aaye Hai, Y.A.R.O Ka Tashan, Sankatmochan Mahabali Hanuman and CID. Sony Pal’s advertiser bouquet consists of Hindustan Unilever, Dabur, Colgate, Patanjali, Telcos brands, handsets brands etc.

Rishtey’s shows Na Aana Is Des Laado, Belan Wali Bahu, Tere Sang Yaara, Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat, Veer Shivaji and Radhaa Ki Betiyaan Kuch Kar Dikhayeng. Zee Anmol shows Kumkum Bhagya, Ek Mutthi Aasmaan, Laddoo, Santoshi Maa, Jamai Raja, Qubool Hai, Gangaa, Kaala Teeka and more.

Star Utsav is currently showing some epic shows of Star Plus and Channel V like Bhakton Ki Bhakti Mein Shakti, Ek Hasina Thi, Ishqbaaaz, Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon?...Ek Baar Phir, Sadda Haq - My Life, My Choice, Suhani Si Ek Ladki, Saath Nibhaana Saathiya, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai and more.

Star Bharat has a big bouquet of original shows which include Kya Haal Mr. Paanchal, Jai Kanhaiya Lal Ki, Jiji Maa, Kaal Bhairav Rahasya, Nimki Mukhiya, Saam Daam Dand Bhed and more.

There are few regional FTA GECs but they will mushroom over time as soon as regional advertisers see the merit in them. Advertisers are keen on tapping rural India and with growing viewership, these channels are likely to form an important part of their budgeting portfolio.

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