Television

Will going subscription-based improve news content on Indian television?

The industry seems to have mixed thoughts.

https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/smartcrop_800x800/public/images/tv-images/2020/12/01/news.jpg?itok=8o7yajHD

NEW DELHI: As per a recent Media Partners Asia (MPA) report, India is going to be the most scalable pay-TV market in the APAC region, with a CAGR of 6 per cent, touching $15 billion by 2024. India will also contribute almost half of the net subscriber additions in the Asia Pacific over the next five years, it highlighted. The increase in consumer awareness, the choices they have, and growing disposable income are a few factors that are going to contribute to this. 

More and more, Indian news channels are toying with the idea that if they go the subscription way, a course correction in terms of content they are serving will also happen. 

Certain players like Times Network, Aaj Tak (SD), Zee News (SD), and News 18 Bihar Jharkhand have already made a successful transition from being FTA to pay-TV in the past few years, while still maintaining their viewership and ad revenues. And there are others who are willing to move to that model. 

Times Network MD and CEO MK Anand also advocated the subscription-based model for news channels at the recent Indiantelevision.com News Television Summit.

He had said, “When you go the subscription route, there is no need to be ratings-led. The current subscription numbers are 10X of what they were in 2014 when I joined the Times. We have to benchmark ourselves on net distribution income (NDI). When it comes to NDI, a news channel should look at the top of the population pyramid more.” 

Anand had estimated that 54 per cent of the Times Network’s revenue in FY21 is going to come from subscription. “The total ratings-led business in our topline is less than 25 per cent. Earlier it used to be 90 per cent. Back then we didn’t have branded content or premium-led ground or digital business. Specifically, Times Now’s TRP-led business is less than 11 per cent of the total.”

In a similar vein, ABP News Network CEO Avinash Pandey had shared in an earlier virtual fireside chat with Indiantelevision.com that he’s quite determined to make all the channels and websites in his network subscription-based – because anything free in this country is taken for granted. 

“Our regional channels were already on a pay model. We only went FTA because of the uncertain environment caused by NTO 1.0. From a carriage perspective, NTO 2.0 is favourable. In today’s world when you have WhatsApp circulating all the videos you are likely to show in the evening and Twitter already debating views and counter views, before you discuss anything on TV it’s already discussed online. In this scenario, how to build a pay channel is the challenge,” he had remarked.

Channels like BBC and CNN that have always been subscription-based also vouched for the success of the model, even from an advertising standpoint.

BBC Global News MD - India and South Asia Rahul Sood noted that having more subscription-based news channels will move it to a point where the players will have to be conscious of which space they want to be in – serious, investigative journalism, or competing with TikTok and cat-and-mouse videos of Facebook. He insisted that going subscription-based will attract the niche audience, thereby helping the pricing. 

However, the top marketing executives have mixed views on the pay-tv option for news improving editorial content. They were, however, more positive about the impact on ad revenues. 

Wavemaker India chief client officer and head - west Shekhar Banerjee pointed out that merely shifting to a pay structure will not solve the content issue on TV news channels. He said, “We have seen such migrations in the past. While the subscription model brings in a bit of cushion for the business, the dependence of the channel on advertiser revenue still remains significant and so will be the pressure to top the viewership race. We will see a real impact in editorial content only when a news channel is brave enough to only earn from subscription and not chase popular journalism.”

Dentsu International CEO - India Anand Bhadkamkar was a bit more optimistic on the impact of subscriptions on quality of content as he noted, “Yes, a course correction in the sort of content that we are seeing today will happen if more and more news channels start moving towards subscription-based entities. And the ad rates will also be reflective of that, considering bundled rates for websites and digital content. Also, it will provide a better return on investment to the advertisers as they will have more breadth to understand the sort of audience they will be getting.”

As for advertising revenue, Pay channels are in a better position to demand a premium on ad rates because they will have the niche audience, who are also going to be better spenders, according to IdeateLabs MD Amit Tripathi.

But does this entail that FTA channels will lose out on ad revenues? The industry doesn’t think so. 

Bhadkamkar said, “I don’t think FTA channels will have anything to lose even if more channels start going subscription-based. The advertising revenues will still be dependent on the viewership that they are getting and if you see the likes of NDTV and Republic Bharat, they have really benefited from being FTA.”

Hindi FTA news channels have enjoyed the privilege of quoting higher ad rates because the viewership is high there, Bhadkamkar observed. Meanwhile, it’s the opposite for English news channels. He insisted that it will depend upon the viewership in the future as well. 

Tripathi also agreed with the sentiment, adding that the type of advertisers might see a little shift with more premium brands choosing to go for the subscription-based channels. However, the final trend will only be decided by viewership numbers as certain premium customers might still be watching FTA channels. 

As advertisers and viewers alike repudiate toxic, tone-deaf content, the penny has finally dropped for news channels. They’ve realised it’s high time to switch gears and focus on editorial content, and whichever way they decide to go – whether pay or FTA – broadcasting responsibly should be their guiding principle from here on out; if news organisations serve the viewers (and not their own political agendas), they will come to the channels of their own volition.

Latest Reads

https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/09/24/photogrid_plus_1632487623579.jpg?itok=hWgYs4UR
Colors Gujarati announces new show 'Maru Mann Mohi Gayu'

Mumbai: Gujarati general entertainment channel Colors Gujarati has announced a new show “Maru Mann Mohi Gayu” that premieres on 27 September at 7:30 p.m from Monday to Saturday. Produced by Kalp Media, the show is an adaption of Colors Marathi TV series “Sundara Manamadhye Bharali." It features...

Television TV Channels Regional
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/09/24/photogrid_plus_1632479904325.jpg?itok=gETiP-n3
TV ad volumes saw 17 per cent growth in August: Barc data

Mumbai: TV ad volumes saw 17 per cent growth in August as compared to the previous month, according to the Broadcast Audience Research Council (Barc) India data. The month recorded the highest ad volumes on TV since the second lockdown in April with 158 million seconds.

Television TV Channels Viewership
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/09/24/photogrid_plus_1632473068852.jpg?itok=u188d30D
Colors set to bring 'Bigg Boss 15' on 2 October

Mumbai: Colors, the Hindi general entertainment channel by Viacom18, has announced the return of  “Bigg Boss” for its 15th season starting on 2 October at 9:30 p.m.

Television TV Channels GECs
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/09/24/photogrid_plus_1632468313760.jpg?itok=GDlCLu1s
Utpal Das takes charge as Pen India Group CEO

Mumbai: Pen Studios has appointed Utpal Das as its new group CEO. Das will be leading all the businesses under Pen Studios and its affiliates, announced the media company on Friday. In a career spanning 30 years across engineering, consumer, healthcare, and media industries, Das has a remarkable...

Television TV Channels People
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/09/24/photogrid_plus_1632464886265.jpg?itok=IS0lT1CS
Nikunj Dalmia named managing editor of ET Now Swadesh

Mumbai: Times Network has named Nikunj Dalmia as managing editor of its yet-to-be-launched Hindi business news channel, ET Now Swadesh. In his new role, Dalmia will lead all editorial decisions and oversee the management of the channel besides continuing his role as the managing editor of the...

Television TV Channels People
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/09/24/photogrid_plus_1632462286455.jpg?itok=zphvl12E
TV9 Bangla unveils its content lineup ahead of Durga Puja

Mumbai: As part of Sharodiya blitzkrieg, TV9 Bangla has announced its programming lineup ahead of the state’s biggest and most awaited festival of Durga Puja. The channel has also unveiled its brand-new Sharodiya logo. The tagline 'Pujo Ebar TV9-a' (this time Durga Pujo is on TV9 Bangla only)...

Television TV Channels Regional
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/09/23/photogrid_plus_1632394106617.jpg?itok=XoGRxfbx
Star Sports unveils ICC Men’s T20 World Cup official anthem

Mumbai: Star Sports, in association with ICC, has released an official anthem called "Live the Game" for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.  The campaign is conceptualised by Star’s creative team and it highlights how the game of cricket transcends boundaries to bring fans across the globe together.

Television TV Channels Sports
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/09/23/img-20210923-wa0001.jpg?itok=kHhEn_Ck
Zee Ganga begins its new journey with superstar Nirahua in Varanasi

Mumbai: Zee Ganga, a premium GEC channel by Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (Zeel) - which is redefining Bhojpuri content, has announced its journey with a fresh array of never before seen original content for the audience. On Thursday, the channel initiated the launch in Varanasi with one of the...

Television TV Channels Regional
https://www.indiantelevision.com/sites/default/files/styles/340x340/public/images/tv-images/2021/09/23/photogrid_plus_1632380545259.jpg?itok=kDKycaZJ
Sony Yay! unveils its content lineup for festive season

Mumbai: Sony Yay!, the kids’ entertainment channel under Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI), has announced to serve audiences 140 hours of fresh content during the festive season including six shows and eight telemovies. The channel has unveiled a slate of new launches, fresh programming and films...

Television TV Channels Kids

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories

* indicates required