Role of NTO in the rise of FTA channels

Better sampling of FTA channels led to increased demand.


MUMBAI: With New Tariff Order (NTO) coming into force, 2019 has been one of the best years for free-to-air channels. The initial period was dark when people took time to select the channels of their choice. In this transition period FTA channels got an opportunity to be sampled on pay platforms as well. Because of NTO, FTA channels have not only marked their presence there but also made price corrections. Going ahead FTA channels, like 9XM, Fakt Marathi, plan to focus on content.

One of the most interesting sessions of VBS 2019 organised by Indiantelevision.com on 11 December 2019 was ‘FTA: The Roadmap Ahead’. The panel discussed NTO impact, key issues faced by the FTA channels, content focus on FTA channels, how FTA channels are dealing with distribution, carriage issues and the roadmap for next 2 years.

The panel was moderated by Indiantelevision.com founder, CEO and editor-in-chief Anil Wanvari with 9XM Media chief revenue officer Pawan Jailkhani, Enterr10 Media Fakt Marathi MD Shirish Pattanshetty and IN10 Media COO Akul Tripathi.

FTA channels largely got their reach because of the distribution but now like any other pay channel they want to focus on content. “There is a possibility that we were running the traditional old content but now we started producing fresh content as well,” said Pattanshetty.

Jailkhani believes distribution has done a fantastic job whether it is pre NTO or post NTO. Channels have got unimaginable reach and penetration. Earlier FTA channels used to get reach largely because of distribution and not because of content. “But now, FTA platforms are focusing on content not because of TV or competition but largely because OTT is a threat. From a content perspective, it is a threat because time spent is shifting to videos, to those platforms basically. So that’s how TV channels or FTA channels have woken up and said we need to focus on content,” said Jailkhani.

Tripathi opined, “We never need to produce new content, there is always content available which people haven’t seen even in different eras.  The content also needs to be relevant. Right now, they would be watching it because it is a new thing and they are watching it for the first time. Going forward with the availability of the content and with the way of accessing the content, they are going to find the content that is more relevant.”

Even FTA music channel 9XM curates fresh music content every Thursday or Friday. There are close to 7-10 movies every week that are released. 9XM runs fresh songs and curates them too. “Curation plays a part but on GECs, the time spent plays a major role. Fresh content with the current theme is very important,” said JailKhani.

Post NTO, 9XM has gained the number 1 position in terms of reach. It’s also ahead of Star Plus in terms of reach. But what it is not able to convert is the actual viewership. Because it does not have time spent like GECs  as it runs two and a half minutes of song and not half an hour of fiction show.

Jailkhani said that India is an underdeveloped, undersold advertising market. “We don’t get the ROIs which we should have got as per reach these guys get about channels - 100 million, 150 million reach week on week unduplicated. And it's huge. But we are not able to monetise it as per our expectation. But with NTO some price correction of about 15 to 20 per cent happened on 9XM.”

The panelists also informed that there is a perception that FTA channels are free channels or will not have viewership in urban cities like Mumbai. But data of channels like Dangal, 9XM or Show Box show they did well on pay platforms and also lead in pay homes.

Like any other paid channel, FTA channels invest in buying content and even pay premium to buy exclusive content to grab the maximum eyeballs. The channels don't compete with its competitors but overall TV viewership to get the maximum eyeballs.

Pattanshetty also informed that regional FTA channels do face issues when they get carried. “We recently launched Bangla so it becomes very mandatory that we are available in the Bangla market. And it’s not easy to get carried. The comparison is who is the last guy who launched and what charge he has paid. He has to pay the premium charge and you might not be able to get the required placement that you are looking at,” he said.

The panelists also revealed their company’s upcoming two-year plans. 9XM plans to bring digital channels. Enterr 10 plans more regional channels and fresh content for the views and IN10 Media intends to launch a new channel.

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