The UK Asian TV market is going through turmoil with ratings falling and the advertising pie shrinking.

Its been a couple of months since the big Asian TV networks including Star TV, ZEE, Sony, Colors and B4U went head to head in the same Sky pack. However, with Star Plus clinging on tight at No.1, its been a disappointing start for ZEE TV, which was one of the first players in the UK Asian TV market in the mid-90s. Sony TV has proved a success with bumper ratings beating rival channels (excluding Star Plus). So while Indian TV channels lose viewers, its the free-to-air Pakistani channels that are winning with the likes of Hum TV, Hum Masala and Geo TV strengthening.

Manish Tiwari, Founder of Here & Now 365, has given his take on the recent changes witnessed in the UK Asian TV market.

My understanding is that so far Asian TV has purely operated on the strength of its diaspora which is largely the first generation migrant who have made Western countries their home in the last few decades. We are yet to see any real attempt to understand the diaspora and create programming based on this understanding. As the dynamics of acquiring content changes with the success of Netflix or Yupp TV and as we see regionalised content finding global distribution platforms, it is inevitable that the major channels on TV would start experience what I would call ‘withdrawal symptoms’ where the viewer has started reducing their viewing time on these platforms.

In the specific UK terms, the recent changes have proven something which was very obvious. Since there are no major differentiators in the programming of various GEC’s and movie channels, rather some being freely available being the only differentiator, the inevitable ‘cannibalisation’ in viewership was bound to happen. Over a period of time, this would mean that it would be difficult for any channel to command leadership as most programming tends to follow the winning formula which for the last few years has been the ‘Ekta Kapoor’ genre of middle class family dramas and now ‘Kapil Sharma’ genre of comedy. However, every channel has now got a fare dose of it and the viewer won’t be loyal as a result.

Finally, the channels in UK have been led by ‘Distribution Teams’ who are not necessarily aggressive marketers. Hence, we have not seen any channel really succeeding in getting younger audiences or non-traditional audiences which I believe is very much possible. We are yet to see aggressive marketing creating a global market for Indian content and in the UK for Asian channels. We are yet to see belief in the ‘brand’ from the local arm of the channels.

Right now, we are in a flux which has got three conclusions:
– Overall viewership is in decline because less and less younger demographic is watching these channels
– Change in distribution strategy has led to even more cannibalisation of viewership which means over the long term, different channels will start leading different time bands with no clear winner in ratings
– Even greater polarisation between Indian and Pakistani viewers as more choices emerge from the Pakistani TV industry

More analysis on UK Asian TV ratings in this series of specials on

  • Kabir Chopra

    Great article when you look at todays scenario in the UK with the Asian channels. The fact of matter is all the Indian channels completely rely on the product created in India for the mass population specially targeting rural India.
    The Indians who moved decades ago to the UK or other foreign destinations dont connect bcoz these are not the ones who poison their mother law or look the same age as their children even when their children are 30 plus yrs old. Its foolish so assume the same content works world wide.
    Also the mainstream channels show superb content like GOT, SUITS, Masterchef, etc. which the Indians living abroad are already used to watching from the likes of Star World, Zee Cafe, Etc. Why do you think a Koffee with Karan works? Because firstly its in English and Bollywood always has a connect with the audience abroad which also included the Brit Asians who are born and bought up in the UK or any other country abroad.

    High time Asian channels start creating content that makes sense to the audience or else the Asian channels will just loose its audience to the likes of Sky Atlantic, Channels, ITV , BBC, etc. who are creating world class content. We have the talent and the stories so why do the Indian channels fear trying out something new? Zee did try with Cloud 9 I remember, it didnt work i agree but they atleast TRIED.
    How long do you thing Star would hold on to their post? Not too long, if they carry on this way as i’m sure many reading this arent even consuming Hindi or Pakistani GEC content as much or Sports & English GEC content consumed. Cross your hearts and ask your self. The only time Hindi GEC runs in our houses when our 60+ yr old family visits.

    So hope for some change and fire up some content…