With a current subscriber base of 22 million, the government run direct-to-home (DTH) service provider DD FreeDish which telecasts free-to-air channels has turned out to be a favourite amongst broadcasters as well as advertisers. According to the latest EY report titled, India’s FTA market – 2017, the subscriber base of DD FreeDish is projected to reach 40 million users in the next two–three years. As a matter of fact, in the latest round of bidding for slots on FreeDish held on July 4, broadcasters paid R85 crore as carriage fee for 11 slots. “FTA market has become important, with the rise in subscriber base. However, these viewers are going through a transition, as FTA is the first step in TV viewing before they migrate to paid platforms,” said Rohit Gupta, president, network sales and international business, Sony Pictures Network.

The latest report on FTA market by ICICI Securities points out that the rise in FTA channels has been driven by Broadcast Association Research Council ‘s (BARC), measurement of ratings in rural India According to BARC ratings for week 26 (June 24-30, 2017), in the rural markets, Zee Anmol – the FTA channel from the house of Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL) grabbed the top spot with 470,357,000 weekly impressions, followed by Colors Rishtey at 432,128,000 weekly impressions at number two position. This has whetted advertisers’ interest.

“Companies such as Hindustan Unilever (HUL), Procter & Gamble (P&G) have a huge chunk of their target consumers residing in rural India. Thus FTA channels have become the perfect platform to advertise. In the last one year, these companies have increased their advertising spend by 50 percent on FTA channels,” said a senior media planner. As per the ICICI Securities report, the FTA advertising market which was pegged at Rs 400 crore –Rs 500 crore CY16, is expected to grow to Rs 800 crore- Rs 1,000 crore by end of CY17.

Interestingly, advertising rates too have gone up in the last one year by 100 percent. Currently a ten second ad spot during prime-time on FTA channels costs anywhere in the range of Rs 10,000 – Rs 20,000 compared to the rate of Rs 5,000 – Rs 10,000, till December last year. Compared to this a ten second ad spot during prime-time on Star Plus, ZEE TV, costs between Rs 80,000 – Rs 1 lakh.

“FTA channels are growing at the expense of paid channels. The situation is similar to that of paid video over-the-top platforms (OTT) versus the free platforms. In India viewers are fine with the idea of watching content a bit late if it’s for free. Going forward broadcasters are expected to face a tough time converting these consumers into paid,” said Ashish Sehgal, COO, Zee Unimedia.

The ICICI Securities report estimates an annual revenue opportunity loss of Rs 1,800 crore for broadcasters from pay-TV, “assuming 300 million subscribers could have generated monthly content average revenue per user (ARPU) of Rs 50,” said analysts in the ICICI securities report. – Financial Express