The number of free TV viewership households in India is estimated to touch 46 million by 2020, a growth of over 50 percent, mainly due to the rise of state- run DTH operator DD Free Dish, said a report by global consultancy EY.

There were 30 million free TV households in the country in 2016.

The growth in free TV viewership will be in addition to consumption of content on mobile digital terrestrial television (DTT) handsets, the report said.

"The free TV market in India is poised to grow primarily due to the rise of DD Free Dish, which has now become the largest DTH operator in the country," said the EY report, titled India's Free TV – a game changing opportunity.

DD Free Dish, the state-run DTH provider, is the largest TV distribution company in the country with over 20 million subscribers, more than national pay TV companies, which average 8 million to 16 million each.

With over 80 channels currently, DD Free Dish plans to add 104 more by 2017-end and eventually take the count to 256 by 2020. The subscriber base of DD Free Dish is projected to reach around 40 million in the next 2–3 years.

"The implementation of the tariff order of 2017 could further push the free TV viewer base to 46 million by 2020," the report said.

It observed that with the new tariff order, customers would have to choose between paying more to receive pay channels of their choice or opt for free television, which will help further drive subscriptions from price-conscious consumers.

"Free television is increasingly becoming a viable option for channels looking to capture the base-of-pyramid audiences in urban and non-urban areas.

"With a large subscriber base, it also opens up new avenues of advertising for marketers looking to tap some of the fastest-growing markets in the country," said EY Partner – Advisory, Media and Entertainment, Ashish Pherwani.

"The change in customer behaviour will also have a significant impact on FTA (free to air) and pay TV channel uptake, and corresponding spends on subscription income," he added. – Money Control