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Discontinuing live news on OTT – who stands to gain and who loses?

Disney+ Hotstar is contemplating removing its live news offering from the platform by June 30, following ambiguity around the IT Rules (Social Media Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Act, 2021 on classification of news platforms. The OTTs are at a loss on how to classify live news and are awaiting clarification from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Currently, Disney+ Hotstar, MX Player, VOOT, ZEE5 and JioTV are offering live news via their platforms.

Speaking on the impact of removing live news from OTT platforms, Uday Sodhi, Senior Partner, Kurate Digital, remarked that the impact would be negligible for the OTT players and have a marginal impact on news broadcasters.

Further explaining, he said, “It will probably affect one or two players, but not all the OTTs, because I don’t think news consumption is significant on these platforms. News content is easily available on social media and on YouTube, and most news broadcasters have their own platforms that are available at a click. Even the telcos (Airtel, Vodafone-Idea, Jio) are offering live news on their own platforms. There is no reason to come on OTT platforms for news. So, the impact would be within a couple of percentages, which is insignificant for the OTT players and news broadcasters. Furthermore, there is no significant monetisation of live news content by the OTT players or use case, where a lot of users come to watch live news on OTT platforms. That only happens during the elections or an event like a natural disaster or when there is the Budget presentation. Right now, OTT is far too big to worry about live news.”

Speaking on the impact of news channel distribution, G Anand, GM - HR, Mathrubhumi Group, noted, “Some of the OTT platforms are removing News Channels from their bouquet fearing the need for having a grievance redressal mechanism to be put in place by the OTT platforms. This may have a slight impact on the viewership of news channels through OTT. But, by and large, the TV news channels, especially the regional channels, are viewed by audiences through cable/ DTH and social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, etc.” 

Meanwhile, one of the leading news broadcasters available on OTT platforms told Adgully that digital platforms offer 10-15 million incremental reach to news channels. Another news broadcaster said that they are lobbying the Government seeking clarification on the classification of live news via OTT platforms.

Recently, the News Broadcasters Association addressed a letter to Information Minister Prakash Javadekar and sought exemption and exclusion of digital news from IT Rules, 2021 on the grounds that these platforms were already heavily safeguarded and regulated under the IT Act, 2000. The News Broadcasters Federation has filed a Right to Information (RTI) petition seeking to understand the purview of the IT Rules, 2021.

A news broadcaster, on condition of anonymity, commented, “One thing is certain, it (IT Rules) will choke the news business for future expansion.”

While the short term impact on news channels is expected to be marginal, news broadcasters are expected to lose crores in revenue over the long term from syndication deals with OTT platforms.

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