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In-depth: Will new tariff regime, World Cup and IPL impact news channels during election season?

News broadcasters were aiming to increase their revenue by at least 30-40% during the upcoming elections. But the new tariff regime may lead to a dropping of pay news channels from the viewers’ list. analyses the impact of new policy on viewership of news channels during elections. And also, how the World Cup and IPL could divert the advertising monies

Elections have always been a big draw for new broadcasters when it comes to attracting advertisers because of viewership increases by almost 50%. But this election season, news broadcasters, both paid and FTA, are likely to face a double whammy because of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s new tariff regime and also the upcoming World Cup and Indian Premier League.

Broadcasters usually make significant investment in election programming by building visualisation, research and getting analysis and opinion polls. But this year, experts feel, their investment may not yield the desired results as some amount of advertising, other than political ads, may divert to other properties.

Experts believe that with the implementation of the new tariff regime, new broadcasters (paid channels) might see a slight drop in viewership as the new regime allows consumers to opt for channels they wish to view and pay only for them.

Most of the news channels are free-to-air (FTA) but several leading channels such as Aaj Tak, India Today Television, Times Now, Mirror Now, Zee News, CNN-News18, News18 India, NDTV 24x7 and NDTV India that are available on an MRP basis.

According to industry experts, FTA channels will witness a growth in viewership but pay ones will be at a disadvantage.

A leading broadcaster said, “Most news channels are FTA so I personally feel that in the short term, these will be the safest bet. Stability will increase with FTA channels as there is an upheaval in the pay channel market. In that scenario, the FTA channels are a safe bet for the advertisers.”

The broadcaster said viewership of pay channels will drop when TRAI restricts signals of those that are not opted by the consumer.

A media analyst agreed that FTA channels will witness a growth in viewership but felt there won’t be much of a change in pay channel numbers either as most of them are available for as low as 0.10 paisa.

The analyst had earlier predicted a 30% jump in viewership of news channels during the 2019 general elections. But now, with a new regime in place, they predict viewership will see a 10% drop.

“Now the selection of channels is really important in terms of viewership. So, if the earlier viewership prediction was 30% then it will come down slightly to 20%, not lesser than that,” the analyst said.

On a positive note, Ramnik Chhabra, Director Marketing, Motilal Oswal Group, said the pay channels may lose a bit in terms of quantity of subscribers but then there are those who would also be involved and engaged with such channels.

Chabbra also said there might be a drop in TV viewership because of pricing and also because of news consumption on mobile screens through OTT/news apps.

But while there could be a drop in viewership, experts believe that ad volume will grow on the back of FTA channels. A leading broadcaster said, “Advertisers want reach, availability and ROI. These are three important metrics of news channels advertisers will be looking at. With Hindi news, the advertisers have the advantage of reach, which won’t be compromised with the FTA channels.”

The analyst said ad volume will grow for sure but the percentage of growth is not clear.

The expert said news channels will have a challenging time when it comes to getting brands on board as three main events — IPL, elections and World Cup — are taking place this year.

“When it comes to the advertisements, three things are happening at a time — IPL, elections and World Cup. It is not easy to sell when three things are happening at a time. It is difficult to sell to the advertiser as the brands for news channels are limited. And now, those brands have to select between IPL, elections and World Cup. Not all brands will get into all three so it is going to get a little bit difficult for news channels,” the analyst said.

MK Anand

However, MK Anand, MD and CEO, Times Network, feels the new regime will settle in before the elections and there would be hardly any impact. “The new tariff-related transition is expected to be a swift changeover now that there has been almost six weeks of grace period. We don’t expect this to be felt beyond February. Elections certainly won’t be impacted," Anand said.

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