Sunday, May 07, 2017

FreeDish growth hurting private DTH players

Free Dish has benefited primarily from the BARC (Broadcast Audience Research Council) rating system which attaches a higher weighting to rural markets versus previous systems, with BARC reaching 98.5 m rural households out of a total of 183 m TV households. The rise in the number of Free to Air (FTA) channels and reducing time gap between content aired on FTA channels and pay channels has been a catalyst to Freedish growth.

With Free Dish planning to increase channel capacity over the next two years to 250 from 104 at present, private DTH players may find it more challenging to compete with FreeDish in future, more so in Phase 4 markets.

Given affordability concerns in FreeDish markets the net impact for broadcasters may not be worrying today. However, Free Dish ramping to 250 channels over the next 2 years may hurt both broadcasters and
private DTH players meaningfully as this may see existing paying subs churning to FreeDish. Moreover, there is an additional trend whereby a good percentage of content even on Pay channels seems to be targeting rural markets to capture rural ad budgets and viewership and this focus on the rural pie may see broadcasters losing their grip over urban viewership and ad market and make them vulnerable to digital platforms. However, we may not see any near term impact as at least 3-4 OTT players may need to scale up
with 10-15 hours of fresh programming per week to be perceived as a viable alternative platform, which seems unlikely to happen in the near future.


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