The private television media, which saw a dramatic rise two decades ago, is now in a dire state as it faces multifaceted challenges.
Television channel owners and workers said lack of a proper business model, sole dependency on advertisements for revenue, too many channels in a small market, lack of a proper regulatory authority and inability to adopt new technologies are the key reasons for the decline of the TV boom.
Of the 30 private channels that are in operation now, all but five are suffering from a revenue crisis.
TV channels have not been able to pay their employees regularly. A number of them have laid-off many of their employees, while a large number of employees are at risk of losing their jobs.
ATN Bangla, an 'infotainment' channel, became popular quickly since its inception. Its revenue was satisfactory and employees were happy because they were paid regularly. They were also given a handsome yearly increment.
But that is in the past now. The channel's employees are not getting paid regularly, let alone getting increments. As of now, their wages are five months overdue. The channel has terminated the jobs of 70 employees to cut cost.
Desh TV, after starting commercial operation, reached the breakeven point the fastest in the history of private channels. However, for the last five to six years, it has been facing a serious cash crunch.
Lack of far-sightedness
Mozammel Babu, managing director of Ekattor TV and senior vice president of the Association of TV Channel Owners, said, "Television channels have failed to keep up with the advent of modern technologies. No business model has been created that is suitable for digital technology."
He went on to say that, "Things such as how advertisements will come to the digital media and how they will be monetised have not been addressed. People are using new media, such as Facebook and other similar platforms, to earn money by sharing TV content. However, the channels that made the contents are not getting anything."
Sukanta Gupta Alak, who is now working as head of news at Desh TV, thinks that the main reason for the sudden fall of TV channels is the lack of pragmatic planning by the owners.
He said the owners were satisfied with the impact their channels were making on the surface, but did not think about sustainability.
"Those who are in this business and also the would-be TV entrepreneurs have problems related to planning, market research, financial projections and content delivery," said Alak.
"Things such as sustaining the TV business and becoming an industry in the long run have never been planned. These essential things have been neglected while the owners enjoyed the surface-level impact," he added.
No subscription model
There is no specific figure about the market size of advertisements in Bangladesh, but estimates range from Tk1,200 crore to Tk1,500 crore.
In this market, 30 television channels are in operation now and another 15 are in the pipeline.
"Each television channel needs at least Tk4 crore every month to continue operations. However, when the advertisement market size and number of channels are compared, each channel does not even get Tk2 crore," said Babu.
He said Bangladesh does not have any TV subscription model.
"Cable operators do not share revenue with channel owners. That is why the channels have to depend heavily on advertisement revenue," he said.
"If cable operators share revenue with content providers then dependence on advertisements will decrease. As a result, the audience will enjoy programmes with fewer advertisements, and it will also help improve content," Babu explained.