There was a significant development for the television industry recently: Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd’s subscription revenue overtook its revenue from advertising. For the April- June Quarter, Zee’s subscription revenues accounted for 51% of their total revenues. This is a great testimony to Zee’s persistence of vision and great for the whole industry. High time that a semblance of order comes to cable subscription in India, hitherto dominated by the faceless neighbourhood cable operator. The higher subscription revenue will also rub off on advertising revenue as ‘assured viewership’ is a great selling point to advertisers.
Speaking of subscriptions, news websites too are planning to charge for online content, which was hitherto free. WSJ and FT.com have been doing so for years now and Fox News thinks that’s the way to go. In it’s early days the online version of India Today was accessible only to paid magazine subscribers, not any more. Getting consumers to pay for content that they think is available elsewhere for free is a tricky affair. Most of the news sites cover stuff that is available elsewhere for free or on TV. Even with services like mail, I am not too sure how successful the ‘paid model has been. Hotmail paid a huge sum to Sabeer Bhatia and offered extra storage for a fee. And then came Gmail’s huge storage space and free to boot, which changed the rules of the game. In general, I would say that the likes of The Economist, WSJ, FT and a few others who offer extra value in terms of specialist views & opinions stand a chance for paid subscription. Or it could be a niche service like legal opinion or pharma marketing that could hope to get paid for online content.
Would you pay for accessing online newspapers or content?