5 million cable TV subscribers cut the cord during Covid2019

A number of consumers have also downgraded their subscription packages.

KOLKATA: The lockdown and its lack of content on television seem to have had an impact on viewers. About 4.5 to five million subscribers have gotten off TV and DTH services since lockdown started. Additionally, several others have downgraded their subscription packages. Coupled together, they have held back revenue income for companies.

Star and Disney India distribution and international business president and head Gurjeev Singh Kapoor shared the numbers in a webinar hosted by Kapoor attributed the loss to two reasons - one is commercial establishments cutting the cords and the other is migrants returning home. While he agreed that loss of subscribers coupled with the downgrading of packs led to a revenue loss, he is confident that the ecosystem is in a position to get those consumers back, especially when the economy opens fully. 

Even though subscribers left or changed packs, the existing viewers provided more eyeballs, most likely because of movies and news keeping them entertained and informed. “During the lockdown, we had 1.2 trillion minutes a week which was the number during the month of April and May and prior to that 0.9 trillion was during January, February. The average time an individual was spending before the lockdown was closer to 20 hours and after lockdown, the number of hours was 27. Television became a good mode of entertaining,” he said.

The first lockdown with its strict rules made it difficult for cable operators to collect subscription even though TV and cable services were provided uninterrupted. The government even classified them as essential services. To help them out, Star India started a digital recharge campaign to help the fraternity. IndiaCast Media Distribution Ltd president Amit Arora also spoke of initiatives like running tickers and scrolls to push subscribers to pay digitally. There were several reports indicating a drastic fall of DPO collection by 40-50 per cent but Arora said it was not down by such a huge number.

The lockdown period has been a boon for OTT platforms that saw a surge in users, motivated by free premium packs. This is likely to be a challenge for television. “The whole set of subscribers which came in March have started trickling away in April. So, now we are more preoccupied with how to take this entire journey forward. The business and revenue have to grow for the entire value chain. The customer is going to be very stingy. This time he has discovered new content on OTT.  Is he really going to loosen the purse to hand over money to the traditional platform and broadcasters, these challenges will come as time goes by. It’s more and more partnering between platforms and broadcasters to see us through the entire time of crisis and the bigger challenges that pose ahead of us,” Arora added.

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