Odisha's TV landscape hots up

BY RAKHI GHOSH| IN Regional Media | 22/03/2014
As the general elections draw near, new channels enter Odisha's mediascape, and unlike the past, hope to stay,

From a political and media perspective these are challenging times for Odisha. While political heavy and light weights are getting ready for electoral battle in the state, new channels are getting ready to carve a space for themselves. Three new players —Zee Kalinga, Focus Odisha, and News 7— are entering into this regional media landscape competing with already established channels like OTV and ETV Odia. While Zee Kalinga, an infotainment channel, has been on air from early February, the other two are getting ready to broadcast. This comes as good news for the 200-odd television journalists and technicians who were laid off with the sudden closure of one channel and the off air status of another over the past two years (see table 1) is that now they potentially have an opportunity to be employed again. The not-so-great news is that with nine to ten channels already on air (see table 1) it’s not clear whether Odisha’s media market will be able to sustain the new kids on the block.

However, media watchers in Bhubaneshwar associated with the electronic media are optimistic. They feel that Odisha’s media market is fertile and has the potential to see the mushrooming of new channels. As a senior television journalist who heads the current affairs department of a leading channel points out, Odisha has the capacity to sustain more channels as long as their promoters are equipped with better strategies and believe that it is professional content that will make networks succeed.

Satellite and cable history began in Odisha in 2001 when ETV Odia, a regional language channel of the Eenadu Group from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, launched its infotainment channel. Then there was no competition in the market, except for one or two small cable networks. Within five years the race for eyeballs began in earnest. The state’s premier cable service provider, Ortel Communications Ltd, launched its satellite transmission (OTV) successfully cutting into the advertisement and market share of ETV. Within a few years, about 14 regional channels entered into the Odisha market—but the fatality rate was high. Three channels closed and two opted out within a space of three years.

Over the last two years alone, three infotainment and news and current affairs (NCA) channels have been launched with huge investments only to shut shop because of lack of financial backing and poor planning. It has been a dismal story of failed start-ups, shrinking finances and short-sighted policies. Kamyaab TV, an infotainment channel was launched in 2008. Incurring huge losses it had to sell a part of its share to a Kolkata-based media house, Brand Value Communications, part of the Rose Valley group, which later also withdrew from the partnership. Another news channel Naxatra TV, backed by an educational institution, part of the Kaustuv group, started in 2009, has been unable to pay its employees for the last few months leading to their exodus to other media groups. A Bhubaneshawar-based chit-fund company, Seashore, launched its news channel, STV, in 2012. Despite a substantial initial investment the channel disappeared from the market within six months of its entry. Other TV channels in the Odisha media market are battling to survive like Kanak TV, backed by an established newspaper group, Eastern Media and MBC, an infotainment channel backed by another chit-fund company, Micro Finance.

Surprisingly, in Odisha’s entire mediascape only one group --Odisha TV which runs OTV --has been successful is dominating the market both in advertisement and channel share, since its inception in 2006. Media analysts in Odisha believe that the failure of other channels was almost a forgone conclusion. The promoters did not have sufficient technical, editorial or marketing expertise. Without any experience, most of these channels tried to replicate OTV to woo viewers—a strategy that did not work.

But with 2.9 million people viewing TV weekly, there is enough space for new entrants in the state. The statistics clearly point to this. According to TAM figures, news channels in Odisha have a viewership of 1.9 million people weekly out of the 2.9 million TV viewing public; cable penetration is 91 per cent and digital viewing is only around 29 per cent, one of the lowest in India, which means, as digital penetration grows, the need for niche content will increase as will the scope for more players.

Certainly, there are huge stumbling blocks preventing the growth of the TV industry. Poor distribution and low penetration point to limited marketing spends, while low TSV (time spent per viewer) on channels indicate poor content. Producing quality news needs professionals. Distribution takes a huge sum of money and advertisement revenues. So when poor content teams up with low visibility, sustenance is difficult.

Advertising is the backbone of making or breaking a channel. Ad spend in Odisha is below the national average. Why is that so? As the executive director of a reputed ad agency in Odisha enumerates: “Without a presence of large local manufacturing units in the state their advertising presence in local media remains low. So the main advertisers in Odisha remain small-time jewellery and garment shops with limited budgets and they conventionally prefer print to television”.

One of the main reasons, says this executive, behind the fragile position of a number of channels in the state has been the lack of deep pockets coupled with a lack of patience. “Regional channels have to wait for a few years patiently to break-even. During this time they need to improve their content, understand their audience, compete in the market, keep a healthy balance between the management and employees to bring the organisation up to a certain standard and establish themselves. It is when they have a respectable share of the regional market that they can get revenue from pan-India advertisers. For this you need to have patience. Unfortunately, the channels which closed down pre-maturely wanted profits overnight.”

So the experts all agree: If television channels want to stay on for the long haul in Odisha they need to develop better, professional business strategies, create innovative content and build a cadre of professional and independent journalists. And then, elections or no elections, the sky is the limit.

Rakhi Ghosh is a Bhubaneshwar-based journalist and has worked both in the print and electronic media.

Table 1
Channel-vision in Odisha
2001: ETV (infotainment),
2006: OTV (infotainment)
2008: OTV (becomes 24x7 NCA)
2008: OTV launches Tarang (GEC)
2009: Kamyab (infotainment)
2009: Naxatra launched (24x7 NCA)
2009: OTV launches Tarang (music)
2010: OTV launches Prathana (devotional)
2010: Ollywood TV (cable) becomes a satellite channel Sarthak TV (GEC)
2010: Kanak TV (24x7 NCA)
2012: STV launched (24x7 NCA)
2012: MBC (infotainment)
2014: Zee Kalinga (infotainment)


Odisha Channels: Viewership and Time Spent (Jan-Feb 2014)

In Million
In Minutes
Any channel
Sarthak TV
Tarang Music
Kanak TV
Naxatra News
ETV Oriya

Source: TAM India, Week 1-6 2014,

Interview: “If somebody has the money to invest and has a vision, channels can survive.”

Dayanidhi Dash, Executive Editor OTV, explains the contours of the television scenario in Odisha. Extracts from the interview:

Q: Has the sudden activity by channels been triggered by the upcoming elections?

A: It is generally believed that a pre-election period is the right time to launch any media vehicle, whether it is news channels or newspapers. Firstly, during this time the news channels can muster a lot of information to cater to viewers. They will not face a dearth of news or events which is the basic ingredient to run a 24x7 news channel. Secondly, during elections, people love to watch politics and nothing else. So media planners suggest starting news channels before the election. Thirdly, it is seen that media houses tend plan news channels or publications of newspapers just before elections to fulfill their political agenda.

Q: Recently two channels have closed down and one is in a shaky position. Why has that happened? 

A: During last couple of years the Odisha media market witnessed few channels starting and closing down quickly. This has happened because, those media house owner have certain personal agenda. [Some] media house owners don’t have a clear vision or mission before launching their channels. Instead of striving for professional excellence and winning the hearts and trust of viewers, these channels are pushing their own narrow personal agendas and they have lost the confidence and trust of viewers.

Q: The closing of channels also affected the livelihoods of journalists and technicians… 

A: When a channel closes down, it’s a failure on both the fronts. First, media house owner fail to fulfill their goals. Secondly, closure is considered a serious setback for the employees and technicians hired for the project. Since, the media industry as a whole in Odisha is very small, the closure of any channel renders hundreds of employees jobless and they cannot find a suitable replacement job for themselves in the state easily. 

Q: Will the new entrants in the market survive?

A: Personally I feel, there is still scope for a couple of channels in Odisha. When I say there is scope for few more channels that means there is an opportunity for them to survive. But what you need is a professional approach. Before entering into this sort of business, you should think about a channel’s break-even period, the total ads market and plan how to share that market [with existing players]. If somebody has the money to invest and has a vision channels can survive.

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