Zee Anmol, a free-to-air channel launched 11 months ago, is a huge hit in small-town India. It dominates the list of top 50 shows in an estimated 20-25 million homes that only watch free channels.
It has got millions watching earlier versions of Jhansi Ki Rani and Chhoti Bahu on their mobile phones. Zee Anmol is Zee Entertainment Enterprises' third free channel after 9X and Zee Smile.
Late last year, Viacom18 launched its free channel called Rishtey. Big Magic's comedy show, Har Mushkil Ka Hal - Akbar Birbal, has become a favourite in the Hindi heartland of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.
"Because Bihar is such a media-dark market, inventory (on Big Magic) is usually sold out," claims Reliance Broadcast Network CEO Tarun Katial. Star Utsav with its reruns of Diya aur Baati Hum and Saraswatichandra is another free-to-air hit, especially in Doordarshan-fed DTH homes.
There are, by some estimates, over 300 free channels in India - just over a third of all channels available.
They account for 7 per cent of the time spent on television in the country, and attract advertisements worth Rs 1,300 crore. (The total television advertising pie, according to a study done by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry and KPMG, is Rs 13,500 crore).
But this is expected to grow rapidly in the days to come. Zee Chief Content & Creative Officer Bharat Ranga says advertising on free channels could more than double to Rs 3,000 crore in three to four years.
Text: Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, Business Standard
Image courtesy: Zee Anmol