I came across a news item which mentioned that the Government of India has approved 22 more television channels to launch services. With this, the total number of channels with approval has risen to 458.
In a country, where until 1992, there was just one state-owned TV channel in Doordarshan, 458 TV channels is mind-boggling. Even if one considers the diversity of India in terms of languages, interests and education, the number looks too huge.
Most people I know watch no more than 10 TV channels each at different points of time cutting across different genres like news, sports, cinema, general entertainment etc.
Has the increased number of channels led to superior quality of information and entertainment ? I don’t think so. There is bound to be sameness in terms of content and also an unhealthy competition to capture eyeballs or TRPs.
The revenue of TV channels is dependent on advertising to a large extent. Advertising is in turn dependent on TRPs. So ultimately, it is the game of TRPs. The channels which have higher TRPs, make more money. Although investment costs have gone down considerably due to declining prices of satellite transponders, the running costs are rising. With so many channels competing for the same journalists, anchors or producers, the cost of content is quite considerable. With so many channels competing for viewers, the marketing spend for new channels in other media is also very high.
Many of the TV channels do not publish their results, as they are not listed. A look at the NDTV results for 2008-09 gives an indication that all is not well with the industry. In Q4-09, NDTV posted Rs 160 crore loss.
NDTV said that in the face of economic slowdown in global and Indian economies, which has hit advertising expenditure severely, it has taken a number of steps to reduce costs and increase revenues.
The shakeout in TV channels appears imminent, if one goes purely by economics. However, media business is never so straightforward. There is always a political dimension to media, which cannot be ignored.