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English and Hindi film TV channels are losing viewers as streaming gains ground

Viewership of English language and Hindi film TV channels saw a steep decline at 18% and 20%, respectively, in 2021 as compared to 2019, said a recent report by Ficci_EY. Overall, film channel viewership fell 9% in 2021 as compared to 2019.

Media experts said direct-to-digital release of films during two years of the pandemic has resulted in longer windows for satellite TV premieres, leading to lower audience interest. The price of film rights for satellite TV itself has fallen 30-40% in the past two years as even broadcasters who have streaming platforms like to release new films on OTT first. Foreign platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, too, shell out big bucks for digital premieres.

To be sure, regional language films such as Bhojpuri and Marathi also saw a 13% and 14% dip in viewership. The report said that as the top 120-150 million Indians who own TV sets also have access to both cinema halls and OTT platforms, viewership of film channels will become more mass. So for better monetization of a film, the gap between its release in theatres and digital platforms versus its premier on satellite TV may increase.

“Calendar year 2021 was especially tough for television movie channels because there were a large number of films premiering directly on digital platforms which paid hefty amounts for exclusive rights. When there is a window of eight to 12 weeks before satellite TV premiere can take place, the film loses relevance,” Karan Taurani, senior vice-president at Elara Capital Ltd said.

He said there is a structural shift in audiences moving towards movie-viewing on OTT platforms and television viewership witnessing a downfall. Especially as OTT subscriptions increasingly become available in attractive bundled packages, the trend is set to accelerate, he said.

Independent trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai said with the exception of Sun TV Network that still airs big-ticket movies on TV first, all companies now opt for quick OTT premieres after theatrical release. The last resort for broadcasters now is to bank on their dubbed south Indian film libraries for which there is a loyal fan base in tier-II and tier-III towns. Live Mint

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