Dangal TV's strategy to be on top of the FTA game

MUMBAI: Last year was a roller coaster ride for broadcasters across categories, courtesy the new tariff order by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Apart from smaller players, even the big four television networks, including Disney-Star India, Zee Entertainment, Viacom18 and Sony Pictures Network India got hit. 

In March 2019, the big four networks pulled out of DD Free Dish as TRAI’s new tariff order did not allow FTA (Free to air) channels’ inclusion in the pay channel bouquet. However, it was the apt time for FTA channels to make merry.

One such network was Enterr10 Television. The network’s Hindi FTA GEC Dangal TV gained significant viewers and today, it is one of the most popular Hindi GECs. Dangal emerged as the undisputed leader in the rural Hindi speaking market (HSM), while maintaining a decent hold in urban areas as well. 

Recently, all the networks came back on DD Free Dish, albeit with their secondary channels. Enterr10 Television COO Deep Drona is unfazed by this move. 

He says, “More players will create a bigger basket of choice for viewers to follow and choose from, but the biggest gain the FTA space will see is also the market place in terms of viewership increase. Not too long ago when the FTA space had all the Big four channels and Dangal, the marketplace was bigger in viewership/GRPs. More players with popular shows will create competition for sure, but the bigger players will help in growing the space in every sense. There is room for all.”

He does not see this move as a disadvantage. Drona points out, “A challenge in the space was waiting. It was inevitable to let any marketplace stay enviably as an exclusive space for very few players, especially when there is revenue to be made. Dangal will face the challenge of four or five FPCs available for viewers of FTA to view and sample.

Unlike pay markets where players came in one by one as part of their journey, in FTA we are going to witness a jump on the wagon by four or five GEC players simultaneously. So, it’s going to be a first for all of us in these current testing times. Dangal, along with others, will have the same challenge of holding on and contributing to growth/increase of the viewership base with its programming.” 

Dangal TV emerged as one of the most-watched channels in India across genres, thanks to a well-thought-out strategy of curating selective old shows and producing originals on Indian history and mythology, apart from the usual dramas.  

The channel has been topping the viewership chart almost every week since March 2019. In week 22 of Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India data, Dangal, with 928,309 impressions, was the topper in the rural market, leaving behind contenders like Big Magic, Star Plus, Sony Sab, DD National, Star Utsav and others.

Now that Dangal has made a place for itself in the market it needs to keep the ratings afloat. Drona states that despite being a leader after the other players vacated this space, Dangal continued to strengthen the FPC with original programming like Devi, Pyaar ki Lukka Chuppi, Alif Laila and Crime Shows. Besides these, there are also other shows that were commissioned and are on the floors.

“We will continue on our path of what we feel relevant and necessary to hold on to our viewership base and also take the necessary steps after looking at how the entire space starts to evolve with multiple players together. The incremental audiences that will get added are up for grabs for all players including us,” Drona elaborates.

Dangal also is positive that more players will help improve ad rates. Drona shares that the bigger groups will help move benchmarks higher and will also help split ad spends from weaker pay channels who right now have lost viewership base. 

“The biggest plus that competition will do is help increase ad rates. The big four channels are not coming to this space to stay at their current revenue levels, they are looking at 3x and more growth and wanting to surpass revenues than they were billing a year or more ago. Because if that does not happen for them, this decision might not feel as gratifying or justified then," he shares. 

“If a client’s markets are more suited to FTA eyeballs then we will see shifting of spends. These are trying times and value for the ad buck is getting questioned and re-evaluated. Suddenly the so called CPRP deflator positioning of an FTA channel will move to unique value adding channel. If these were CPRP deflators, there will be six or seven channels to choose from and there are as many or lesser big pay channels, so the ecosystem is going to spin. Price/trading points will have to be re-calibrated," he points out.

Drona feels that the client list now isn't very deep but with bigger players, it can present a compelling and aggressive case to woo ad bucks.

However, it also depends on whether the Indian Premier League (IPL) might get scheduled for later this year.

“Arguably if IPL happens in Q3, it could disrupt the entire revenue pie-chart for the ecosystem. Impact bucks will ride on IPL and efficiencies will be sought from the rest of the channels and FTA will be a great partner to the IPL impact buys,” he opines. 

With the street getting busy, Dangal's strategy will be to look around, adapt and change accordingly. "All of us will first let the ripples settle and then have a re-jig to the FPC we start with or have in place right now,” Drona concludes.  

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