Contender GECs to make bigger dent in the free-to-air market

Contender GECs to make bigger dent in the free-to-air market

In the absence of legacy GECs, newer players will see an upswing in viewership on DD Free Dish.


Mumbai: This year, the contender channels such as Shemaroo TV, The Q, and Azaad TV will be able to make a bigger dent in the FTA market due to the absence of big broadcasters’ Hindi general entertainment channels on Prasar Bharati’s DD Free Dish.

The public broadcaster recently concluded its fourth annual e-auction for vacant MPEG-2 slots available on DD Free Dish. Hindi GECs like Shemaroo TV and The Q were once again able to secure slots for Rs 15.45 crore and Rs 15.4 crore, respectively.

“Last year, the bidding process was highly competitive and we were the highest bidder in the Hindi GEC bucket at Rs 16.5 crore,” said The Q chief operating officer Krishna Menon. “We had a strategy in place and were sure that we had to be available on DD Free Dish come what may. This is because the kind of content we create is for the tier II, III and IV heartland audience and it is important for us to be present there.”

Hindi GEC The Q became available on the DD Free Dish platform for the first time last year and saw its revenues grow by six times. The channel has launched a Marathi free-to-air channel this year. “We took a conscious call that The Q Marathi will not be on Free Dish even though it is a free-to-air channel,” Menon told

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Prasar Bharati’s free DTH platform caters to a TV audience of 40 million, many of whom are not willing to pay for content. This means that the channels which are allotted a slot on DD Free Dish have access to a whole new audience that remains untapped by the pay distribution operators.

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Enterr10 Television Network’s Hindi GEC Dangal crossed the 200 gross rating points (GRPs) threshold and became the top channel on TV for several consecutive weeks. This happened after Star, Sony, Zee and Viacom18 had pulled their FTA channels from Free Dish in 2019 and implementation of the new tariff framework (NTO). Dangal experimented with fresh content and was able to garner a significant share of viewership among free-to-air audiences.

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However, in 2020, when leading broadcasters returned to the free DTH platform, the share of Dangal fell to 65-75 GRPs due to the intense competition in terms of content. “It’s not just enough to be available on Free Dish, even though that gives you a huge boost. Content is just as important. While Dangal had the best content among newcomers, if you compete with Star Utsav, they are working with completely different kind of budgets. When 'Anupama' (Star Utsav’s popular show) was available on Free Dish, it was unbeatable, but when the big broadcasters exited the platform then Dangal shows like 'Mahima Shani Dev Ki' and 'Dwarakadhish' were shattering records,” said industry observer Shrutish Maharaj.

“It is a big boost for any FTA channel to be available on DD Free Dish from a potential viewership point of view but translating that into actual viewership will largely depend on content,” said Maharaj, adding that, “There will surely be an upswing for the newcomer channels but the quantum of upswing will be interesting to watch. Unlike 2019, there are more FTA channels in the GEC space and it will be interesting to see their journey in the wake of the latest developments."

“The upswing in GRPs also increases the bargaining power of broadcasters’ because of concentration of viewership in fewer channels in the FTA space,” he remarked. "Earlier, broadcasters were fighting for a piece of the same business and some channels were flexible with their ad rates to attract a share of ad volumes. This led to FTA advertising becoming a buyer-driven market. But a channel with a significant share of GRPs would be able to hold on to their ad rates in spite of the competition."

“Now that big four are going away, I’m sure that newcomers like Shemaroo TV, Azaad TV and The Q will benefit and take this opportunity to invest in content,” Maharaj further said. "The network broadcasters have not completely exited the free DTH platform as their movie channels are still available on Free Dish. The impact this strategy will have on the FTA viewership is a wait and watch."