These are heady times in the South Asian media in UK .The market has never seen such frantic activity; what with more and more channels pushing their way through in a market already jostling for space. And viewers! Ah, yes viewers. Never mind whether there are three million or four or five million (you have to add the illegal ones too). For ultimately it is they who are having the last laugh as more channels decide to go free to air.
We۪ve certainly come a long way from the 90۪s when just one channel truly ruled. Today there are around 55 south Asian channels in UK on satellite in almost all the genres you can think of. Almost 90 present of the channels are free to air on satellite. It is surreal what has happened in little over two decades. Calling it a revolution would not be off the mark.
No wonder then, there۪s joy in many South Asian households in the UK. That monthly bill has finally seen a downward spiral. Last year, the cable company decided to slash prices and offer an unbelievable price for all the popular channels and successfully managed to lure viewers. It was like one of the post-Christmas sales in a departmental store which offers 50 percent off on products you admire all year round. Only this was a permanent one. Today the 12 for 11 channels is still a steal.
But if you are a channel surfer and cannot give enough of your desi TV fix, switching to satellite would offer you even more. Want to watch a Bollywood movie channel? General entertainment? Or maybe you prefer to watch the latest trailers and tracks from Bollywood.Some regional fare? Maybe the news interests you. It is all free to watch.
Yes, free. Music to the ears. Kerchinggg to the wallet. Like the McDonald۪s advertisement goes, they are loving it۪. So many channels, so little time to watch. Having two or more television۪s at home is finally worth it.
[quote]No wonder then, there۪s joy in many South Asian households in the UK. That monthly bill has finally seen a downward spiral.[end_quote]
How did it come to this? UK was traditionally a pay TV market ruled by the broadcaster. For years, the viewer had no choice but to pay. Sometimes the programmes were amazing. Sometimes they were rubbish. But as a viewer, caught in a yearly contract you just paid. Sometimes you ranted, but carried on with life. Afterall, you couldn۪t get anywhere even if you took a morcha outside the broadcaster۪s office if you did not like something. And so you learnt to accept.
Not anymore. Although addiction and loyalty to channels is still existent and die-hard viewers will stick to their favourite programmes and channels. But the average viewer is now more fickle than ever. Spoilt for choice. Desirous for more. Critical to the core. Remote control glued to the fingers incase boredom creeps in while watching .They have been granted a luxury and have lapped it up with glee. Singh is King. But here even a Patel or Khan can claim that title.
To actually ascertain just how fortunate viewers in UK are, you just have to cross over the pond. In the United States, there is no such thing as free viewing. You want to watch a channel, you pay. Whether its music or movies, regional or a general entertainment. Although a few channels have gone free to air on cable in certain cities, it is an overall pay market. Even news channels are not free. And what۪s more, it does not look like it is going to change in the near future.
Not so in the UK.Infact what is even more intriguing is the fact that there are more channels from the sub-continent who are eyeing the UK market with the intention of going free to air even if those around are no so sure about their future. What fun! Bring it on! So what if the advertising revenue in a besieged market may actually not quite surpass the transponder and other miscellaneous costs .They are all coming. They۪ve heard that there۪s something called BARB and a few God sent۪ mainstream agencies who are assuring them it will all be ok.
Who knows? Maybe they could all be right. Or wrong. In these almost glasnost and perestroika times that have engulfed the South Asian media industry anything is possible. We will just have to wait and watch.
But guess who the winner is in the ultimate scenario? Yup, you guessed right. The viewer. We knew they were the most significant lot. We always said it. Now there۪s even more meaning to that statement. After all, while they watch that movie or serial they are having their cake and eating it too!
(The author is Head of Sales and Marketing (International) B4U NETWORK and when he is not travelling for work, takes some time out to follow his passion in writing on various issues in the media)