Television

Sanjeev Kapoor on FoodFood's FTA avatar, DD Free Dish & TRAI tariff order impact

FoodFood will now be a free-to-air channel

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MUMBAI: With the new tariff order bringing in a major change to India's television distribution, several broadcasters are adopting alternative ways to stay relevant in the ecosystem. Chef Sanjeev Kapoor-promoted FoodFood channel is among those trying to negate the impact of the new regulatory framework by converting it into a free-to-air channel from its current pay model to maintain its reach. Ahead of its 11 July FTA launch, Kapoor interacted with Indiantelevision.com to outline the reasons behind the decision and offered insights into the category his channels operates in.

What was the objective behind taking this call?

When the tariff order was released, we were contemplating how to approach this. We realised that we should keep it the way it was and when the dust settles, we will take the call depending upon which way the viewership is moving. We studied and evaluated what the viewership patterns are, how things are moving, what is happening in the market, what is happening to specialty content, what’s the best way to approach it and we realised that for a single channel without bouquet strength the best way is to approach it differently. When there are bouquets, no matter what the order says that this can not be done, the reality is that bouquets for large players are much simpler and easier. Whether it is through Facebook, Youtube, we see that food content consumption has gone up exponentially on digital whether. The only way to bring it at par with what the consumer needs and demands is to increase the reach and that’s why we took this call.

What were your key observations from three-four months of tariff order implementation?

So as we know the overall viewership has dipped, that is because the reach is not there because you aren't there. Then, how does the viewer find you? Whether it is an MSO, DTH, small LCO, how do you get discovered? In a-la-carte, when you try to educate a person, it takes time and effort and when a single channel does not have the power to fight that, then it becomes very difficult. Even in my house it took my personal intervention to get Food Food, so it would be difficult for normal viewers. So to break this resistance, one must go the FTA way. We believe it will be better now because if the pressure of paying the broadcaster is not there, hopefully, it will be better. We evaluated Free Dish as well. It format have any specific advantage for a smaller channel. For devotional channels, there is a lesser fee but for specialty channels like us it is not beneficial.

Do you see consolidation, mergers or more channels being added in the category you are operating in?

Difficult to say. Bigger broadcasters with 40-50 channels have their own challenges. Some of them are shutting down, some of them are rationalising. In such a case, consolidation is the most obvious choice but really we have not seen that happen yet because these are early days. For people like us, fortunately, it's not something that bothers us too much because we have over 1200 hours of high quality HD content. We have the ability to syndicate, licence and monetise through multiple ways. So we are not too worried.

Do you have to spend more on content to attract consumers as the new tariff order puts power in their hands to pick and chose?

I would say that even if the power is given, if the consumer cannot use it how is it going to help. You can be FTA and still not be present as the must-carry rule is no longer there. How do you ensure that? Though digital has come to the rescue but at whose cost? It’s not at the cost of content creators or at the cost of distributors. There used to be a normal camera now there are more digital cameras. There could be transitions. Three years ago when I visited the US, people were talking about cutting the cords and if that is a global phenomenon that has to come. The power of content will stay. We consider that as content creators we distribute content through different platforms and whenever consumers find it convenient to access our content, they will consume it there.

How do you plan to monetise your content across digital?

We already do. We have a fairly large plan on digital. So, our overall community including Food Food is over 20 million that across platforms could be Facebook, Twitter, YouTube etc. We use that community to reach out to core Food lovers. We work very closely with brands. We are launching a series on biryanis. We have Dawat Biryani Rice on board as a large partner for that.

Do you see your revenue more skewed towards digital in the near future?

I would guess so.

Do you tweak your programming in terms of going from pay to FTA?

Our focus does not change. We want to stay focused on who we are. We don’t want to really change the programming too much.

Do you see a change in nature of your core viewer given that you are a free platform now?

It’s difficult to say. We want to stay core to our value and we will see if in each market we have enough consumers. We want to work with all the distributors in creating something unique and special for them. So, we don’t want to change the core product. We want to give a few things which no other TV channel can do.

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