Continuing with our series of special reports under the TV Impact brand, Raj Baddhan, media executive and founder of BizAsiaLive.com, evaluates the market dynamics post the August Sky Asian package changes.
Over the last couple of weeks, we touched upon the Top 5 Hits amongst TV channels and the Top 5 Misses since the Sky changes. This week, we’re focusing on the future and forecasting what upcoming changes can fragment the UK Asian television market further.
When the Sky changes were announced earlier in the year, the television market was braced for Star Plus to lose its grip at the No.1 position, while the likes of ZEE TV and Sony Entertainment Television were expected to muscle in. Even though Star Plus’ share and impacts have fallen, other channels have not come anywhere close to overtaking the market leader (except the odd weekend). Sony TV has made a bigger impact, on the back of a successful ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ run, however, ZEE TV remains far behind. But what does the future hold, here’s our prediction on the disruptions waiting to happen.
Indian Premier League on Hotstar / Star TV
The TV industry has been witnessing a change with more younger viewers switching to online alternatives such as Netflix and Amazon. While, broadcasters in India have paved the way for their own digital OTT platforms, UK Asian TV broadcasters are yet to jump on this trend. However, it does seem, Star TV will become one of the first to fully launch its Hotstar service in the UK. The industry has been speculating that Hotstar could launch as soon as Q1/18 ahead of the Indian Premier League, which the broadcaster holds the digital and broadcast rights to. Either that, or Star TV will sell the rights on to another digital platform.
Hotstar had a “soft launch” in the UK market a couple of years ago but faced a setback due to rights issue of certain shows. A watered down version of Hotstar could launch early as next year to stream the Indian Premier League in April. It would be the perfect marketing tool to attract subscribers to its platform but whether it will be able to make decent amount of returns in this small window, remains to be seen.
ARY Family UK launch
With ARY Digital set to return to the UK as ARY Family in December, the channel will give competition to existing players Hum TV, Hum Masala, Geo TV, Urdu 1 Europe and A Plus Europe. This will also be the first time that an ARY entertainment channel will report BARB data. ARY Digital has been away from the UK market for nearly a year and thus it will be interesting to see how UK viewers will embrace (or not) the channel.
ARY Network is leaving no stone unturned for the channel’s relaunch in the UK. It is expected to run some of its big fictions that UK viewers may have missed during the past year, plus a handful of big movie premieres, produced under ARY Films. It is also learnt that the channel will be broadcasting the inaugural T10 Cricket League. The channel is expected to launch prior to the Christmas holidays, giving further competition to other channels during this time.
More HD Asian TV channels
Star Gold is upping the ante as far as HD channels are concerned in the UK Asian TV market. The channel joins Star Plus HD, Sony TV HD, Sony MAX HD, Colors HD and &TV HD, on the Sky platform in December. The competition amongst Asian TV channels is more fierce than ever before, with viewers less loyal than before. Gone are the days where viewers would stick to a channel for its brand, its now all about content and the quality of its content.
Living in the digital era, where television channels are giving viewers 4K and 3D content, some TV channels are less responsive in giving into the demands of viewers. ZEE TV and ZEE Cinema – the two flagship channels under ZEE Network, have been touted to launch in HD for a number of months but have pushed back plans – Most probably down to the economic downturn and the costs in running HD channels.
While, there’s not been any specific data to signify an increase in viewership since Colors and Sony went HD with their channels, it enhances the experience for viewers that are watching HD content. With Indian entertainment channels already on the HD route, it is likely Pakistani broadcasters like Hum TV could follow suit. The channel already broadcasts a HD variation in Pakistan. There are also plans to launch an Urdu news channel in HD in the UK, with one big broadcaster toying with the idea.
Axing of channels
Since the Sky Asian pack changes in August, repeat content has increased amongst the big network channels. Not only is this leading to viewers channel hopping but also TV channels are cannibalising and eating into their own network shares. Broadcasters will need to sit up and evaluate the performance of their channels. The &TV, Sony SAB TV and Rishtey may have worked previously broadcasting premium content when they were free-to-air but with all channels on the same platform now, some of the smaller channels are falling behind their flagship services. There’s also question marks hanging over the futures of Star Utsav and ZEE Punjabi, so it remains to be seen seen, which could be earmarked for closure next year to sharpen the focus on original high quality premium content on bigger channels.
Engaging with youth audiences
Youth audiences are being lured away from traditional television viewing by digital apps and social media. While some of the Asian TV channels are holding back on budgets on online campaigns, some are resorting to buying followers and likes to attract advertisers. As many in the industry know, the initial impression may be decent to see large amount of followers but if they fail to translate into impacts for advertisers, then its a silly tactic.
Over the years, Asian TV broadcasters have stuck to traditional methods of marketing such as TV, radio, billboards and events but should they be tapping into digital spaces for those audiences that are growing to new media as oppose to the older ways of consuming content? Some of the Asian TV channels have avoided investing in social media and therefore they have struggled to engage with younger audiences. The ones that may be digital savvy, may also be facing issues. Not using correct hashtags, tagging individuals and use of live videos and images, makes one realise that this could be why Asian TV channels are losing audiences.
When Asian TV channels have access to stars and content directly from their production houses in India/Pakistan, why is exclusive material not being made available to fans to connect with their favourite stars. If Asian TV channels continue in this way of working, not only will they lose ground on the digital front, it will also impact their television ratings, which are already dwindling for some.