India’s new cable TV pricing will force broadcasters to put on better shows

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  • New regulation will allow users to pick preferred channels over bouquets
  • Indian broadcasters already facing pressure from Netflix, Amazon and Hotstar in big cities
  • Rising competition and new pricing may weed out boring channels
Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar have certainly made a dent on Indian broadcasters in urban India. But outside the big cities where cable TV is still the preferred option, channels will have to change their game completely as a new pricing model takes effect from February 1.

Starting next month, viewers will have the option to choose the individual channels that they would like to subscribe to and pay for those alone. While bouquets will still be available, the new pricing mechanism set out by the regulator makes it cheaper for consumers to make a bunch of their own choice, instead of getting a selection of channels most of which they do not watch.

This will put added pressure on broadcasters fighting the onslaught of digital platforms in retaining subscribers. “Good channels which have a strong brand love and strong content, and for which we were getting a good advertiser pull, for those channels now, you will also get a subscriber pull,” said Prathyusha Agarwal, CMO, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited.

On the other hand, broadcasters may lose money both on advertising and viewership in non-performing channels that, so far, piggy-backed on successful peers under the same ownership.“Undoubtedly, then the channels that do not deliver on the basic promise of good content will automatically cease to exist,” said Agarwal.

Cable TV will continue to have more takers in India as the over-the-top (OTT) platforms are relatively expensive. “Television is one of the essential commodities in the country and consumption in India is actually 3 hours 44 minutes per household per day and when you go to South India, it increases to 4 hours plus. With this kind of consumption, streaming could be expensive and cumbersome,” said Karishma Bhalla, Partner and Director, Boston Consulting Group. Moreover, Netflix and Amazon do not offer the same content as most broadcasters.

However, from where they are, the popularity of the digital content providers is only set to rise. The Indian OTT market is set to reach $5 billion by 2023, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group.

“OTT is spurring additional consumption unlocking new need spaces and not just substituting existing consumption. It will likely increase the per capita media consumption in India,” she said.

India will have more internet users than the entire population of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States of America put together by 2020, according to the BCG report. This would also mean rising consumption of videos via YouTube, Facebook and Instagram too could eat into the TV-viewing time.

All in all, Indian broadcasters will have to find a way to brace for heightened challenges from different corners. To survive, they will have to offer better content at affordable prices. Easier said than done.

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