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Hotstar, SonyLIV contemplating return of news channels a win-win situation for all: Experts

Many news broadcasters are believed to be in touch with these OTT platforms after the clarification issued by the I&B ministry

The foreign-owned OTT players such as Disney+ Hotstar and SonyLIV are contemplating bringing news channels back on their platforms after the government’s clarification over the FDI clause in IT Rules, 2020, highly placed sources told

Both platforms had stopped carrying news channels from July 1, 2021, owing to ambiguity in IT Rules.

I&B Ministry, on March 10, clarified that when an OTT platform is hosting the digital feed of a TV news channel granted permission under the extant Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines, only as a medium and makes it available to its subscribers/users, such an OTT platform is not covered under the 26% FDI rule.

Many news broadcasters are believed to be in touch with these OTT platforms after the clarification issued by the I&B ministry.

“After losing IPL, the loss of paid subscribers was already anticipated by the global leadership of Disney+ Hotstar. However, the rethink over offering news again will provide more variety and better experience to their users,” said an analyst who has been associated with one of the foreign-owned OTT players.

“In a general election year, it would be a win-win situation for all the stakeholders including the government. The government took two years to clarify on the rules but it is possible that it was done keeping in mind the 2024 Lok Sabha elections,” the analyst added.

When the OTT platforms removed the news channels in 2020, had reported that the news brands such as Aaj Tak were among the most-searched keywords across content genres, at least on two OTT platforms.

"On big event days such as election results or a national event, news genre attracted more than 5% of total watch minutes. That's as good as the total share of news in the TV viewership pie," a senior executive at one of the two platforms had said.

“It becomes more important from Hotstar’s perspective as these news channels attract a lot of viewership from their sports programming which will remain around IPL for the next two months. Hotstar subscribers would surely get a variety of content which will push the average time spent in the upward direction,” said the analyst quoted above.

On the other hand, the move will offer an opportunity for the news channels to ride on the large user base of the OTT platforms and earn additional revenue in already volatile market conditions.

Quoting industry sources, in 2020 reported that the channels such as Aaj Tak were getting a minimum fee of around Rs 5 crore from a single OTT platform. So, if the channel was present on four or five OTT aggregator platforms, it was earning in the range of Rs 15-20 crore approximately.

Other leading channels such as ABP, Zee and Republic, among others, are also paid in the range of Rs 3 crore to Rs 5 crore annually per platform.

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