Free-to-air English news channels like Republic TV and Al Jazeera have got a massive boost in their reach, while paid Hindi entertainment and movie channels have seen the biggest drop in reach after the implementation of the new TRAI tariff scheme, according to data from Chrome Data Analytics & Media, one of the world’s largest media and advertisement measurement platforms.
The numbers from Chrome DM, which electronically collects distribution data corresponding to 3 lakh villages and 3,000 towns in India, only reflect the availability of channels on different distribution platforms, and does not measure viewership.
In other words, Chrome DM simple checks if a channel is available at the subscriber end, and not whether he or she watches it. The viewing patterns are measured largely by the Broadcast Audience Research Council or BARC – an organization controlled by channels and advertisers.
However, if a channel’s availability drops sharply, it is almost certain that its viewership will also follow the same pattern. Chrome DM gets its data from various sources, such as cable TV and MSO systems, DTH systems as well as directly from consumers.
The company’s founder and MD, Pankaj Krishna, called free English news channels, particularly Republic TV and Al Jazeera, the biggest gainers from the new system, at least as far as data from the second week of February is concerned.
Free English news channels saw a massive 44% jump in their reach. This was followed by free Hindi entertainment channels like Dillagi, which improved their reach by 29% during the week.
At the other extreme were kids channels. Even free kids channels saw a 9% fall in their reach as these were not part of many of the ‘base packs’ offered by cable and DTH companies.
Another interesting case was that of free Hindi news and Hindi movie channels. Despite the disruption in the market in favor of free offerings, these did not see any massive increase in reach.
Free Hindi movie channels, for example, improved their reach by only 2% during the second week.Similarly, free Hindi news channels increased there reach by just 3%.
This is because these categories already contained many strong free-to-air channels and were already widely distributed even before the current disruption.
Still, ABP news was among the gainers in this category. It should be kept in mind that the leaders in Hindi news — News18 and Aaj Tak — both turned pay.
Under the new system, cable and DTH operators do not have to ask for permission or make any payment to distribute free channels. But they have to take care of several technical and commercial aspects when distributing pay channels like News18 and Aaj Tak.
The situation was very different in the pay channel sphere. In fact, the only resilient segments in pay channels were sports and English news.
Paid sports channels saw a decline of only 4% during the week, while paid English news saw a drop of only 8%.
The biggest drop among pay channels, as expected, was seen in Hindi entertainment channels, which include the likes of Colors, Zee and Star.
Both paid Hindi entertainment and paid Hindi movie channels saw a drop of 29% in their availability.
This is not surprising as they are also among the most expensive channels under the new tariff scheme. Nevertheless, this is a far cry from the earlier system when these would be part of almost all channels packs except the most basic.
Paid Hindi news channels, of which there weren’t many earlier, saw a dip of 21%. Paid kids channels too saw a drop of 21% in their availability in consumers’ homes.
It should be kept in mind that it is too early to draw implications from the data.
This is because the roll-out of the new tariff scheme has only just begun, and broadcasters are likely to cut the prices of their channels if they find offtake to be very low.
Moreover, the rollout is in early stages because most users have not been able to pick their channels and packs due to technical difficulties or the lack of knowledge about how to do so.
In fact, the Chrome DM’s data itself gave a clue about how little the situation on the ground has changed.
According to Pankaj Krishna, only 27% of the homes covered by his survey have seen any change in the channels available on their TVs.
In 73% of the urban homes, said Pankaj Krishna, there has not been any change yet post the implementation of the new tariff order.
Within this 27%, 15.52% of the total users have gone with a package suggested by their cable or DTH operator, instead of making one of their own.
About 6.1% of the users made their own packs. Within this, 4.1% of the subscribers availed of at least one broadcaster pack, while 2% went with teh a-la carte option.
5.29% of the users have chosen not to activate any pay channel at all.
People, said Pankaj Krishna, seemed to be going for the bigger and cheaper packages.
“There seems to be a direct correlation between the number of channels and the price [to customer adoption],” he said. “Quantity seems to be playing a bigger role on the consumer’s mind as far as the off-take is concerned.”
Krishna’s data covers 64.6 million of the 84 million homes in urban India. The veteran of the media industry predicted that the new system will cause far-reaching changes in viewership.
“You’ll see a lot of shakeups, a lot of numbers going down, because we’ve captured data from 3000 towns and 300,000 villages…You will see a radical shift in the connectivity of individual channels, which I hope does reflect on the rating system as well,” he said.