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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Broadcasters plan more free channels to tap rural viewers

Indian television broadcasters are starting to focus on the rural viewer, a segment that has been neglected for a long time, as the scope of revenues were limited due to the preference for free content. These viewers have been served mainly by the staterun Prasar Bharati and a couple of channels airing repeat content. But that is about to change, driven by two major developments: the success of DD Freedish, Prasar Bharati's free DTH platform and the encouraging rural viewership ratings reported by measurement agency Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India. Broadcasters, who first launched Hindi general entertainment channels in the free-to-air (FTA) space, are now adding more FTA channels to reach out to this underserved market. 

NP Singh, CEO at Sony Pictures Networks India (SPN) said that broadcasters began to recognise the opportunity in rural markets once BARC started reporting its ratings and have responded by launching channels specifically focused on the rural audience. "We had some of our channels available in these markets before BARC started to report rural data. Since there is a platform with a large mass of viewers (DD Freedish), which are now being measured, it is important for all broadcasters to evaluate their options for those markets and that's exactly what we are doing," says Singh. 

SPN had first reached out to viewers in the rural markets with Sony MIX followed by Sony PAL and has recently launched a Hindi movie channel Sony WAH. Sudhanshu Vats, group CEO at Viacom18 said, "India is a hybrid market, a mix of pay and free. It is important for us as a player to find a business model for both of these markets. I see substantial numbers in the FTA market." 

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