It was an important year for media in India. Several changes in the broadcast landscape stood out. Some of the more important developments took place in the second half of the year. The biggest one, in fact, was saved for the last which would change the ranking order of television broadcasters in the country.

In December, media mogul Rupert Murdoch announced the mother of all media deals with Walt Disney Co., which agreed to buy parts of Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc. for about USD 52.4 billion in stock. The deal has far-reaching implications for India, where his media empire would merge with Disney. In this market, Murdoch has a presence through Star India Pvt. Ltd that operates close to 60 television channels. The deal implies that these channels as well as the company’s digital streaming platform Hotstar would be absorbed by Disney. Besides, Disney would also acquire Star’s stake in the direct-to-home platform Tata Sky. While the deal is likely to take about 12-18 months, it would make Disney the biggest broadcaster in India. Currently, Disney’s presence in India is defined by a clutch of channels for children and youth as well as by distribution of Hollywood films in India.

The new entity is expected to leverage both advertising and distribution revenues. Media experts say that the combined entity in India would be close to Rs14,000 crore in revenue this year, including the Indian Premier League (IPL), the popular Twenty20 cricket tournament. The deal would make Disney the proud owner of the broadcast rights to IPL, which moved from Sony Pictures Networks’ portfolio to Star India. That was another key development in sports broadcasting this year. Sony enjoyed the TV broadcast rights to IPL for 10 years. In September, Star India won the television, digital, Indian and global media rights to IPL for the next five seasons for Rs16,347.50 crore. In a 20 December interview to Mint, the firm’s managing director Sanjay Gupta said the broadcaster aims to reach over 700 million people in the 2018 season of IPL across its 10 sports channels and streaming service Hotstar.

To be sure, it will be the first time that Hotstar will be able to live-stream IPL although it has held the digital rights for four years. Now that the broadcaster owns both TV and digital rights, it can show the matches without the mandatory five-minute lag.

It was an action-packed year for the direct-to-home (DTH) industry too. Last month, Reliance Communications Ltd agreed to sell its DTH arm Reliance BIG TV Ltd to Pantel Technologies Pvt. Ltd and Veecon Media & Television Ltd. Earlier this month, Bharti Airtel Ltd decided to sell a 20 percent stake in its DTH arm to private equity firm Warburg Pincus for USD 350 million. Meanwhile, the information and broadcasting ministry gave its nod to the merger of two DTH firms —Dish TV and Videocon d2h—paving the way for consolidation in the industry.

After the merger, the Zee group-owned Dish TV and Videocon d2h will be known as Dish TV Videocon Ltd. The combined entity will serve more than 29 million subscribers and would probably be the largest listed media company in the country. Dish TV and Videocon d2h had announced the merger in November 2016. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Dish TV is currently the market leader with a 24 percent share (as of June 2017).Videocon d2h has a 21 percent market share.

In the digital space, the emerging Bharat was the big theme of the year. While the over-the-top (OTT) video streaming sites—both homegrown and international—took big strides in terms of enrolling subscribers and expanding their content offerings, they also trained their guns on regional language content. After print and TV, digital platforms too veered towards the idea that consumers want to consume media in their preferred language when it is available. Little surprise then that Kolkata-based television and film production company SVF launched Hoichoi, a Bengali language OTT platform comprising films and web series.

Experts in the sector explained that the future of OTT is in regional language content as nearly 75 percent of the new internet customers are coming from tier-2 and tier-3 towns and 70-80 percent of those want to consume content in their own language. They added that regional content on OTT will command close to 30 percent of the overall share in the years to come.

Last but not the least important was the launch of a new English language channel—Republic TV—which has remained number one ever since its debut in May. ArnabGoswami’s venture perhaps rode on the back of a news-hungry Indian market where TV continues to grow. The entry of Republic TV probably grew, however marginally, the English language news genre too. According to data from Broadcast Audience Research Council, in 2016, the English news genre’s share was 0.02 percent of the total TV viewership. In 2017, it grew to 0.04 percent.

In 2018, we need to watch out for the Star-Disney deal, the combined might of Dish and Videocon d2h and IPL’s performance for its new broadcast partner.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff. – Live Mint