Sandeep Goyal
Apr 16, 2019

Blog: The rise and rise of Free Dish

Dangal TV continues at No.1, with more than a little help from DD Free Dish. How will the future pan out. The author paints a scenario.

Blog: The rise and rise of Free Dish
The week 14 data released by BARC India last week reconfirmed what we already knew : Dangal TV is India’s No. 1 TV channel. This week too the reign of Dangal at the top continued with the once-upon-a-time Bhojpuri channel, now a Free-to-Air (FTA) Hindi GEC channel, continuing to stay ahead of Star TV, Sony, Zee and Colors. That too by a mile.
In the Hindi GEC (TG MF 15+ ABC Market HSM) Urban + Rural segment, Dangal registered 184 crore impressions (compared to 192 crore last week), leaving national rivals Star (119 crore), Zee (100 crore), Sony (96 crore) and Colors (88 crore) far behind. Big Magic (90 crore) was actually ahead of Colors at No. 5. Meanwhile Star Sports Hindi, with IPL on its air-waves, only managed 135.5 crore impressions, showing clearly the current dominance of Dangal.
In Rural, the Dangal lead over other GECs was even more stark. Dangal TV clocked 265 crore impressions, followed by Big Magic at 130 crore impressions. Star Sports Hindi took the third place with 92 crore impressions. Star trailed by a massive margin, logging 68 crore impressions while Zee did a little better at 74 crore. Colors was next at 51 crore while Sony managed a poor 44 crore score. One time market leader Star Bharat languished at 29 crore impressions, worsted even by Sony SAB at 34 crore. Dangal in fact did even better in the data cut Hindi GEC TG 15+ Market HSM Rural with 270 crore impressions. 
In my Blog last week in Campaign India, ‘Dangal TV, who? Presenting India’s No. 1 TV channel’ I had looked at the rags-to-riches story of Dangal TV. In the week gone by, I have repeatedly been asked by readers what is it that has fuelled the rise and rise of Dangal to the top? I had mentioned in last week’s Blog, “So, what has fuelled the sudden success of Dangal TV? Dangal TV is surely a direct beneficiary of the move by leading broadcasters to pull off their Hindi GEC and movie channels from DD Free Dish platform from 1st March 2019. Broadcasters like Star India, ZEEL, Viacom18, and Sony Pictures Networks India (SPNI) have converted their erstwhile FTA channels to ‘pay’ in the new pricing regime of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).” But the question that has been thrown back at me is, what is DD Free Dish? 
For those not familiar with DD Free Dish, the platform offers 80 channels, including 23 DD channels, Rajya Sabha TV and Lok Sabha TV. It is a lifetime free service for the consumer, who needs to make a one-time investment in buying the dish and the set-top box.
While various estimates peg the current subscriber base of DD Free Dish at 22-25 million, consulting firm Ernst and Young estimates that the number will top 40 million by 2020. Doordarshan had launched DD Free Dish (earlier DD Direct+) in December 2004 with a bouquet of 33 TV channels. The capacity of the DTH platform was augmented to 59 channels and then to 104 channels in December 2014. It was the rural reach and growth of DD Free Dish, which made broadcast networks like Star India, ZEE, ESPN, Viacom18 and others to launch their FTA channels on the platform. These networks were initially seeking advertising revenues from clients targeting the middle and lower income viewers. “But now DD Free Dish is available across the country and has grown to a size where it has become a visible threat to the entire value chain,” says a recent article in The Economic Times. What is worrying other broadcasters is that DD Free Dish is totally in contrast with TRAI’s tariff order and interconnection regulations, and completely un-addressable.
And it is here that the likes of Dangal TV are scoring. 
DD Free Dish does extremely well in North India, and penetration is excellent in UP and Bihar. These are markets where the customer does not even want to pay a meager Rs. 99 per month … being quite happy to see whatever content comes free. With other erstwhile FTA channels of broadcaster bouquets having gone ‘pay’, the Dangal TVs and Big Magic TVs have a loyal audience of viewers willing to see whatever they dish out … for free! No wonder, Dangal’s ‘Mahima Shanidev Ki’ was India’s No.1 TV show in Week 14 with 11358 million impressions, with Dangal’s ‘Ramayan’ at 11254 million, clearly ahead of Zee TV’s ‘Kumkum Bhagya’ at 10354 million and ‘Kundali Bhagya’ at 9518 million.  Colors’ ‘Nagin 3’ was way behind at 8585 million impressions. Fact also is that the DD Free Dish viewer is not very picky. Research in the past has shown that seeing episodes that are ‘dated’ … lagging those of the original content on the GEC by even a few months doesn’t seem to worry these price-sensitive customers in the Hindi heartland. 
The moot question is whether the TV landscape has irretrievably changed for all times to come? Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. The churn in connectivity triggered by the TRAI guidelines has surely put the established broadcasters under stress. But in the next 3-6 months, the distribution glitches will surely get addressed, and get resolved. So, the likes of Star Plus or Zee or Sony or Colors will get back to their leadership perches. But it is the like of Star Bharat and Sony SAB and &TV that will have to re-script their narratives. In the absence of DD Free Dish connectivity, their content will have to justify the asking price at the retail level. Of course, they will have the benefit of customers buying parent broadcaster bouquets at a discounted/bargain price but the customer can no longer be taken for granted. 
For now, the Hindi GEC FTA market as we knew it before March 1, stands completely destroyed and demolished. So, Dangal TV will continue its run at the top for quite some time into the future while the channel heads at Star Bharat, Sony SAB and &TV struggle to ingest new magic into their offerings so that the lapsed viewership can somehow be restored.
(Dr. Sandeep Goyal constantly tracks emerging changes in the marketplace.) 



Campaign India

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