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&TV to launch as FTA channel in UK

MUMBAI: &TV, ZEEL’s new Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC), is launching as a free-to-air (FTA) service in the UK.

The launch will take place on 6 April, coinciding with the completion of 20 years of the company in the country.

&TV will replace ‘Lamhe’, UK’s first nostalgic Asian entertainment channel, which was launched by ZEEL two years back.

It is learnt that ZEEL MD and CEO Punit Goenka, &TV business head Rajesh Iyer, and Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan will be present at the launch.

&TV has over 21 hours of original content including reality and fiction shows. The roster includes ‘Razia Sultan’, ‘Bhaghyalakshmi’, ‘Gangaa’, ‘Begusarai’, and ‘Bhabi Ji Ghar Par Hai’. Non-fiction content consists of SRK-hosted ‘India Poochega: Sabse Shaana Kaun?’ and weekend properties such as ‘Killer Karaoke’ and ‘Tujhse Naaraaz Nahi Zindagi’.

According to IndiaCast Group COO Gaurav Gandhi, the South Asian market in the UK is moving towards FTA model as pay TV revenues have de-grown and the ad market is growing at a steady pace.

“Over the years, the pay TV market for the South Asian channels has witnessed de-growth in the UK market. We changed the game by making Colors and Rishtey FTA. We have seen tremendous growth in revenues post making our channels FTA. Given our success, many other Indian and Pakistani channels have become FTA to tap into the growing mainstream ad market for Asian channels,” Gandhi asserted.

According to industry estimates, Viacom18 makes around £6–7 million from Colors and Rishtey.

The UK market for South Asian channels can be broadly divided into three categories, which include the channels that are in basic pack, FTA channels, and pay channels.

The basic pack and FTA channels enjoy a wider reach and are rated by BARB. The pay channels have a lower sub base and the pay TV market for Indian channels is witnessing a slide.

“Advertisers in the UK buy only BARB-rated channels. If you want ad revenue, you have to be measured by BARB,” an industry source stated.

The source noted that the advertising market in the UK is much evolved. The ad market for Indian and Pakistani channels is witnessing rapid growth, which makes FTA a lucrative proposition.

Star Plus, which is available in the Sky basic pack, and Colors and Rishtey, which are FTA services, enjoy wider reach.

“Over the past few years, the mainstream ad market for Asian channels has become big. If you have to be in the big ad revenue game, then it is a good strategy to be either FTA or in the basic pack,” the source explained.