Have you wondered how much more difficult it has become to tell the difference between entertainment and news channels on television? After all, the television channel business, worth Rs18,000 crore in advertisement and subscription fees, is dominated by the entertainment genre. And print, with Rs14,800 crore in revenue, is still largely about news. This is despite the fact that there are more news channels than those of any other genre. Earlier this year, in response to a question in Parliament, the minister for information and broadcasting announced that there are 201 news and current affairs TV channels and 180 non-news and current affairs TV channels uplinked from India. Also waiting in the pipeline are applications of 97 private satellite news and current affairs TV channels and 85 private satellite non-news and current affairs TV channels. Then there are 67 private satellite TV channels uplinked from abroad—14 are news and current affairs TV channels and 53 are non-news and current affairs TV channels. I find particularly funny the way we classify channels as “news and current affairs” and “non-news and current affairs”. For the sake of definition as given in the policy documents: “News & Current Affairs channel means a channel which has any element of news and current affairs in its programme content.” This definition has served as the point of entry of news channels into the entertainment genre. Also Read PN Vasanti’s earlier columns
News and current affairs channels need special clearance by the ministry. They have to be accredited to the Press Information Bureau, cannot have foreign equity exceeding 26%, and can only have Indians in important decision-making positions. News has been always been a highly sensitive genre as far as the government is concerned and there is currently some amount of debate on the contentious issue of news in community radio.
INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENTS, OPPORTUNITIES & THREATS
Television households in India is estimated to grow from the current estimate of around 120 million homes to over 132 million by 2012. Most households will become subscribers of cable & satellite services. Cable and DTH services will achieve a much higher penetration across TV homes in India with cable reaching over 85% homes by 2012.
TV Distribution: A growing digitalization of television distribution (with digital cable & DTH) has the potential to generate far higher distribution revenues for broadcasters. Television distribution, estimated at Rs 16,700 cr in 2008 is expected to grow at an annual rate of 23% to touch Rs 38,000 cr by the year 2012. Emerging technologies such as IPTV and Mobile TV will also expand distribution revenues. While a large portion of television distribution revenues do not reach broadcasters, the advent of digitalization should increase overall addressability of the market, resulting in increasing revenues for channels.
TV Advertising: Advertising, as a proportion to GDP, continues to be much lower in India than in most developed nations. As India’s economy expands, this penetration is expected to increase. Since television is one of the prime destinations for advertisers, the increased add spends are expected to filter down to broadcasters. Also, different products and services have different target user groups. Networks that reach all segments of the population are hence expected to have a far greater appeal to advertisers. Overall, TV advertising is expected to grow from an estimated Rs 8,000 cr in 2008 to over Rs 20,000 cr by 2012, growing at an average annual rate of 20%.
Programming: While the television industry continues to be growing with several channels being launched regularly, those who are able to create a robust network of channels will be winners in the long run.