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Future of broadcasting: Rise of free-to-air channels is aiding growth of TV

Tulsidham Ke Laddu Gopal is a feel-good mythological drama. Tulsi, a devotee of Laddu Gopal (Krishna’s childhood avatar) can sense his presence even while he is invisible to others. The fun and miracles this leads to is what this daily on Shemaroo TV is all about.

It also provides an insight into the future of television — which is about free, family- oriented, mass, and ad-supported programming.

“The free-to-air world is going through the roof. It is the biggest disruption in the way video is being consumed,” says Deepak Dhar, founder and group CEO for Banijay Asia and Endemol Shine India, producers of Masterchef, Bigg Boss, and Aarya among other shows.

In the video business, an FTA is defined as a service with no recurring monthly payment. Of the 920 channels in India last year, 557 were free going by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data.

In this world, Shemaroo along with Dangal, Goldmines, and Manoranjan TV – not Disney Star, Sony, Zee, and Viacom18 – are the big four. Manish Singhal’s Enter10 Television, which closed on March 2024 with revenues of Rs 600 crore is the biggest of the lot with Dangal TV.

It is not just the most viewed channel across the Hindi heartland but across India. Manish Shah’s Goldmines Telefilms did revenues of Rs 517 crore in March 2023. Goldmines TV has been the most watched movie channel in the Hindi belt for some years now. “Ninety per cent of the TV homes in India are single TV ones: TV watching is a family activity,” says Shah.

Sahib Chopra, president, Manoranjan TV talks about its growth from one channel in 2007 to six in Hindi, Bhojpuri and Bangla now.

“FTA in urban has also increased. Many homes now take one OTT (over-the-top streaming service) plus FTA instead of cable,” says Divya Radhakrishnan, managing director, Helios, a media services firm.

Over 990 million Indians watch television. About 35 per cent of them watch only FTAs. That is up from 20 per cent in 2021. There are no reliable figures on what ad spends on FTA were a few years back but current estimates put them at Rs 3,000 crore. That is just over 10 per cent of the total television ad pie of Rs 29,700 crore. Business Standard

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