FYI TV18, the most watched ‘lifestyle’ channel in India, will shut down on July 8, TV18 group said, while announcing an increase in the prices of several of its channel packages and the conversion of a free channel into pay.
FYI SHUT DOWN
The move to shut down FYI TV18 makes the channel the latest casualty of adverse market conditions triggered by the Coronavirus pandemic. Others that have shut down so far include Sony ESPN, Sony AXN and Dilli AajTak.
FYI TV18, which would complete four years in India on July 6, is the Indian version of FYI, a US lifestyle channel, owned by A&E Networks, the owner of The History Channel.
FYI TV18, launched in 1999 in the US, was originally known as The Biography Channel, and used to run fact-based programs like its sister, History Channel.
The channel shifted to reality programming around 2007, and now offers food shows, home improvement and other similar fare.
In India, reality-based (non-fiction) channels are divided into three — news & current affairs, lifestyle and infotainment.
Within the lifestyle category, FYI TV18 is the most widely watched in India.
However, the lifestyle category accounts for a small portion of the overall reality TV market in India.
For example, FYI TV18 garnered only 13.8 million weekly impressions in the latest week according to TV rating agency BARC India, while Discovery Channel scored 51.6 million and History TV18 — a sister channel of FYI TV18 — had 28.4 million impressions.
TLC, part of the Discovery group and the pioneer of the lifestyle segment in India, notched up only 9.8 million impressions.
However, the key reason for the shutdown of FYI TV18 may be its heavy reliance on locally produced content, which is unlike Discovery Channel, History TV18, TLC and Fox Life — all of which rely heavily on their US channels for filling the bulk of their airtime.
While local content helped FYI TV18 rise to the top of the charts quickly, it also meant that operating costs were much higher than those of other channels.
With Coronavirus leading to a prolonged shutdown and potentially to a prolonged economic recession, chances of recovering the money sunk into programming too has eroded.
Other channels that are scheduled to, or have already, shut down include Sony AXN, which has been transmitting into India for around 25 years, Sony ESPN, music channel Sony Mix and Dilli AajTak.
It is likely that as the impact of pandemic becomes clearer, more broadcasters may announce similar moves to conserve cash.
BOUQUET PRICE INCREASE
With advertising revenue dwindling, companies like TV18 are being forced to rely more on subscription charges to fund their operations.
As a result, even as the firm announced the shut down of FYI TV18 channel, it has also announced an increase in the prices of most of its channel packs.
The prices of most of these channel packs have been increased by Rs 3.54 per month, including taxes.
The group’s Hindi Budget pack will now cost Rs 29.5 per month instead of Rs 26, while the HD version will cost Rs 41.3 instead of Rs 37.75.
However, some packs — particularly the costlier ones — have not seen any increase in their prices. The Hindi Family Plus HD pack, for example, will continue to be priced at Rs 50.
Suprisingly, the group also announced the conversion of its newly launched free movie channel Rishtey Cineplex into a pay channel with effect from July 8.
The move is surprising, given that the channel has only been launched four days ago, and that too on the DD Free Dish platform on which pay channels are not allowed.
“The channel named ‘Rishtey Cineplex’ shall be converted from free to air (FTA) to pay effective July 8, 2020,” the group said in a notification.
The company’s strategy behind the move is not clear.
While converting a channel from free to pay will allow its owner to bundle it along with its other pay channels and increase its reach, it will also curtail its reach due to distribution problems.
Free channels can be distributed on free platforms like DD Free Dish as well as the ‘free packs’ of major DTH and cable companies like Tata Sky and Airtel Digital.
Similar problems with distribution and packaging had led to five channels — such as Star Utsav and Sony Pal — being withdrawn from the DD Free Dish platform a year ago.
At the time, the owners of these channels had expected that bundling them with other pay channels would result in better reach.
However, subsequent experience proved that the channels did much better when they were free than when they were pay, and the five channels which went pay a year ago are likely to reconvert themselves into free channels soon.
These channels have also booked a slot for themselves on DD Free Dish. Meanwhile, Rishtey Cineplex, launched four days ago, is already available on DD Free Dish.
Companies are eager to be on DD Free Dish as it gives an instant boost in viewership and reach, and therefore, to advertising revenue.
DD Free Dish is India’s only TV distribution platform that costs nothing in terms of monthly subscription fees and is widely used in Hindi speaking states.