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B4U Movies to go FTA to ride rural TV growth

MUMBAI: B4U Television Network India is converting its only pay channel B4U Movies to free to air (FTA) as it seeks to widen the reach of the channel in the rural belt. The Hindi movie channel will go FTA on 15 April.

Apart from B4U Movies, the company also owns and operates a Hindi music channel B4U Music, which is an FTA channel. Launched in 1999, B4U Movies is among the early entrants into the Hindi movie genre.

B4U-Movies-coverB4U Movies is priced Rs 3.55 on a la carte basis for addressable platforms and Rs 8.48 for non-addressable platforms. Despite being a pay channel, B4U Movies is also available on Doordarshan’s free direct-to-home (DTH) platform Freedish. B4U Music is also available on Freedish.

With FTA channels showing huge growth in viewership ever since BARC India started reporting data for rural TV households, it was only natural for B4U Movies to take the FTA route.

“We want to grow our reach in rural India, which is the big growth market now,” said a company official on condition of anonymity.

According to BARC India survey, the rural TV homes have surpassed urban TV homes. As per the Broadcast India 2016 survey, rural India boasts 99 million TV homes of the 183 million TV households while Urban TV household stands at 84 million. Earlier the urban/rural TV home split was 50:50, which has now become 46:54.

CVL SrinivasGroupM South Asia CEO CVL Srinivas had earlier stated that sports, FTA and high-definition (HD) channels will do well in 2017 in terms of ad revenue compared to other genres.

“This year we expect sports to continue to do well. We expect HD to do well. We are seeing a lot of growth in HD although it’s a very small base. We also expect some FTA channels to do well considering the reach and the value proposition that they deliver,” he had stated.

He had also pointed out that the growth of FTA channels had come at the cost of pay channels. In the same breath, he had added that the pay universe was still very crucial for effectiveness. He had also said that the Indian Premier League (IPL) and other high-impact properties would continue to do well.

The company can afford to go FTA as B4U Movies is anyway getting negligible subscription revenue.

In its response to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on interconnection regulation, B4U had stated that “though B4U spends 60% of its revenues on carriage fee, it covers only 75% market for its B4U Music channel and 66% for its B4U Movies channel and not the whole pan-India territory.”

Listing out the woes of a small broadcaster, B4U had submitted that “B4U has very minimal subscription rates for its B4U Movies channel and hardly gets any subscription fees from the market, as its bargaining power is poor, in terms of not having a large bouquet of popular channels, and hence also ends up paying high carriage fees”.

It had also noted that small broadcasters were being discriminated against by the distribution platforms. The big broadcasters, it had maintained, could arm-twist platforms to get a good subscription rate and low carriage fee even for their weaker channels due to cross bundling.

Of late, many Hindi news channels have also gone FTA to tap into the huge rural market. These include NDTV India, News18 India and Zee News.

Having tasted success with FTA Hindi GECs, the big networks had last year made an entry into the rural market with their own FTA movie channels. Star India, ZEEL and Sony Pictures Networks India had launched Star Utsav Movies, Zee Anmol Cinema and Sony Wah, respectively, to complement their pay Hindi movie channels.

In July 2016, B4U Television Network had received two non-news uplinking licences for B4U Plus and B4U Hitz in Hindi/English. The two channels are expected to be in the movie and music genres respectively.

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