Unfair or Fair Play? Reach & ratings drive channels to ask for multiple pushpoints on EPG

10 Jun,2015

By A Correspondent

 

What do you do when you are launching an all-new channel or just wish to ramp up the reach of your existing network?

 

Spend top dollars on distribution, of course.

 

While quality content is important, the key factor in the popularity of a channel and ensuring good ratings for a channel is distribution (and hence availability).

 

In the good old days, there was carriage fee. Pay the cable operators in sackfuls, and you are sure of your channel being carried in the prime band or alongside the leading channels.

 

But with digitisation and EPGs getting on to our screens, the game has changed. While carriage fees have reduced, the EPG has made things a little complex. Yes,  you can always ask for good placement, but that’s not a sureshot way to rope in viewers. With the stakes very high, the innovative brains that we have in the Indian media and entertainment sector have dreamed up a new strategy. Ensure that your channel figures in the EPG more than once.

 

Aur dikhao, aur dikhao!

 

So, if you are an English news channel , while you’ll find your name amongst the news channels of that language, you can also get yourself among the GECs. Next to a Star Plus, Colors and Zee. How does this happen? Dollops of dosh, of course.

 

Is it the right thing to do? No, it isn’t. Are the industry associations doing anything about it? No, they aren’t. Will the TRAI do something about? Most likely it will.

 

The move has sent shockwaves in the industry, but the last mile cable companies are delighted that it’s one more source of revenues from reach-hungry channels as other channels are reportedly mulling a similar move. Said the head of one distribution firm on anonymity: “Yes, I have already been approached by some channels, and I have had to put my foot down in saying that we can’t corrupt the system.” Any more, we may add.

 

There’s no stopping an all-new channel or a channel that is relaunching or attempting a fresh promotion strategy to have its name figure a dozen times in the EPG.

 

A 10-plus-year-old channel attempted this recently on its relaunch, following the footsteps of another channel which had done this, albeit in a small way a few years back. The channel that did this earlier has reportedly done it again to counter its recently-recharged competition. MxMIndia has in its possession a list of headends where multiple pushpoints have been provided on the EPG. Needless to say, these are in zones that have maximum viewership for certain genres.

 

An industry analyst we spoke to said the move is reprehensible and must be nipped in the bud asap. “While viewership and not reach is the variable that eventually matters, the proliferation is unhealthy and must be stopped.”

 

A channel marketing executive however said there is no need for the TRAI or the industry bodies to step in. “Do you stop the promotion of a soap which is displayed in multiple locations at a supermarket? This is a legitimate marketing practice and it’s not that channels are breaking the law to do it.”

 

Next is what? A channel-block on your EPGs?

 

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