Linear TV Transformation: Managing the Cord Switchers while Untapping the Further Growth Potential

The landscape of television has undergone significant changes in recent years, thanks to the emergence of digital platforms and streaming services alongside conventional linear TV models. However traditional linear TV still commands a substantial market share. But the industry is changing as it is at the interesting juncture of managing the audience’s shift towards new platforms while unlocking additional growth potential in linear TV.

There are two divergent schools of thought regarding the future of linear TV While some view the cord-cutting trend as an indication of its eventual demise, others see it as an opportunity to adapt and innovate to changing viewer habits.

Here, we delve into both perspectives and highlight strategies for managing cord-switchers while maximising growth potential in linear transformation.

The Past and Present of Linear TV: A Comprehensive Overview

Linear TV, the traditional broadcasting model where programs are scheduled and aired at specific times, has a rich history that dates back to the early 1900s. By the 1950s, it had become a staple source of entertainment worldwide. However, the rise of digital technologies and the internet has introduced new ways of consuming content.

As the market evolves, linear TV has had to adapt to changing audience preferences by offering more personalised content, multiple viewing options, and enhanced user experiences. However, despite the growing threat from on-demand streaming services and the rise of connected TV, linear TV remains a significant player in the industry, particularly for live events, news, GEC shows and sports programming.

Linear TV remains an essential medium for advertisers to reach large audiences. Although addressable TV advertising is growing, linear TV still attracts significant advertising revenue.

Global trends around connected TV are not indicative of the near future in India. The subject of Connected TV is one of anticipation and is not backed by data. Also, the truth of its penetration is available in the widely acknowledged industry reports by FICCI-E&Y and CII-KPMG. Both reports estimate its reach at 10 million homes which is less than 5% of India’s TV universe.

The low penetration of wired broadband connections among Indian homes impacts the scale of connected TV penetration. However, smart TVs account for about 90% of new TV purchases. Their conversion to connected TV is subject to the availability of high-speed internet, which is available in only 7% of Indian homes currently. As per TRAI, the total internet fibre homes which can deliver speeds above 10 Mbps in India stand at a mere 12-13 million. For CTV to scale in India, high-speed internet connectivity is a real challenge in addition to low CTV penetration. Therefore, the increase in smart tv purchases in India does not indicate the demise of Linear TV and the resultant conversion into connected TVs.

Linear TV is poised to remain a relevant force in the industry. In addition, its legacy and familiarity continue to attract viewers, and disruptive measures are being implemented to keep up with the changing times. As the industry evolves, the overall sentiment is that linear TV will adapt and stay relevant. In a country like India, which is home to many ‘India’ s, certain shows have continued to woo audiences for over a decade. Strong narratives backed by relatable content and distribution make linear TV a very strong contender in the future as well.

Exploring the Fascinating World of Linear TV in India

It is intriguing to observe the viewing habits of Indian families. They gather around the TV to watch documentaries, children’s shows, daily soaps, sports, and movies together. However, according to the Changing Landscape of Indian Television report 2022 by GroupM Finecast and Kantar, web series do not seem to have the same appeal for group viewing. Instead, people prefer to watch them alone.

Despite this trend, industry experts predict that both linear TV and connected TV will experience growth in India. While connected TV is expected to have a higher growth rate, the base for both platforms are vastly different. As a result, the absolute growth volume in linear TV looks promising.

Another aspect contributing to the growth of advertising on linear TV is that TV consumption duration is not dependent on the mode of connection. Both connected and linear viewers spend around 12 hours per week watching TV. As regards regional preferences, West India prefers connected TV, while the East leans more towards linear TV viewing.

Considering the vast diversity of India and the expected growth in tier 2 and tier 3 markets and rural areas, the story of linear TV in India has immense potential waiting to be tapped. Moreover, as media consumption habits continue to evolve, it will be exciting to see how linear TV continues to carve out its unique space in the Indian market. Regionalisation and localisation of content will be key drivers in this piece. Therefore, more investment in content is going to be the differentiator.  During a discussion at a trade forum, Nicola Lewis, Global CEO, Finecast, talks about emerging TV viewing trends and threw insights into how Indian consumers are engaging and consuming TV content. She says “Linear TV is growing at 9.7% rate and so far, only 210 million households out of 320 million have TV sets which corresponds to nearly 70 per cent penetration. That means there is room to grow in 90 million non-TV households in India,”.

Understanding the Cord-Switchers

As we delve deeper into the changing landscape of entertainment consumption, we must acknowledge the emergence of “cord-switchers” – a term used to describe individuals who opt to switch between cable and streaming services to access their preferred content instead of sticking to just one avenue.

The trend is further magnified by the fact that some users may even subscribe to multiple services concurrently. In contrast, others may cancel their current subscription in favour of a new one with the release of fresh content. Understanding the needs and preferences of these cord-switchers is crucial for providers looking to stay ahead of the curve in an ever-evolving industry.

Why Do People Switch from Cable to Other TV Options?

As the streaming landscape continues to evolve, the number of cord-cutting households is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years. While there are various reasons why people switch from cable to alternative TV options, the most prevalent one is the desire for a wider range of content that may not be available through a single provider. With many streaming services available, viewers can now access their preferred shows, movies, and sports events across multiple platforms.

In addition to content, pricing is another critical factor that drives cord-switching. Many cable and streaming services offer promotional rates for new subscribers, which may increase after an introductory period. To save money, viewers may cancel their subscriptions and switch to a different provider that offers a better deal.

Finally, user experience is becoming an increasingly significant factor in determining which streaming services consumers choose. For example, viewers may switch to a competitor that provides a more seamless experience if a platform has a clunky interface or poor streaming quality.

As the streaming market becomes more crowded, providers seek ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. It can include offering exclusive content, more attractive pricing, and a better user experience. By doing so, businesses can attract and retain subscribers in a highly competitive landscape.

The Impact of Cord-Switching on the Linear TV Industry

The rise of cord-switching, where consumers switch from traditional linear TV services to online streaming platforms, has impacted the linear TV industry to an extent. This shift in viewing patterns, advertising revenue, and content production has prompted industry players to rethink their strategies.

One of the most significant effects of cord-switching is a decline in linear TV viewership, leading to a decrease in advertising revenue for linear TV networks. As a result, linear TV networks have been compelled to increase investment in creating high-quality, engaging content that appeals to viewers to remain competitive. Even though the massive impact of the switch is not felt in India so far, the Linear TV networks have to prepare for the distant future, wherein the equations might change.

Cord-switching has also fundamentally altered how people consume content. The availability of on-demand options has disrupted the traditional approach to TV scheduling. Viewers now have the flexibility to watch their preferred shows at their convenience, resulting in a rise in binge-watching and a preference for serialised content over traditional standalone episodes.

Cord-switching has enabled the emergence of new players in the video industry. Streaming services have become major industry players, producing original content and competing with traditional linear TV networks for viewership and talent.

In response to cord-switching, many linear TV networks have launched their streaming services to retain viewers and generate additional revenue. However, results have been mixed, as many consumers tend to subscribe to a few leading streaming platforms rather than paying for several minor ones.

As the industry evolves, linear TV networks must continue to innovate and adapt to the changing landscape. By staying abreast of emerging trends and embracing new technologies, they can remain relevant and competitive in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Nonetheless, right now, linear TV is still alive and thriving. Even with the heavier competition from podcasts, streaming, and social media, the CII KPMG report shows that an overwhelming majority of Indians still prefer linear television, and less than 5% of households shifted to connected TVs. Industry reports by FICCI-E&Y and CII-KPMG also point out that the cord-cutting percentage in India has been a complete contrast to the developed foreign markets, such as the US This could be due to India’s predominant co-viewing behaviour and preference for family-friendly content.

One big X factor is the low penetration of wired broadband connections among Indian homes. Further, only 7% of Indian homes have high-speed internet. So, it comes as no surprise that cord-cutting is still negligible in the Indian TV universe.

During the COVID-19-induced lockdowns, there was a spike in TV viewing, with the average daily time spent on TV standing at 3 hours 34 minutes. While digital consumption has been growing rapidly in India, only 13 million households (no more than 5% of Indian households) will cut the cord by 2026, and a large majority of the Indian population will still prefer TV as their primary source of entertainment.

Leaders in the Streaming Industry: Successful Cord-Switcher Management Strategies

In today’s streaming landscape, it is crucial to have a cord-switcher management strategy that can retain subscribers and attract new ones. Companies like Sony LIV and SPN are leading the way with their successful approaches.

Sony LIV’s wide range of content, including original programming and a focus on Sports, has set them apart from the competition. They have also prioritised user experience and personalisation, resulting in high customer satisfaction and retention rates.

SPNI, India’s top Television network, has geared up to manage the cord-switchers. Be it kids’ content or movies, the library is thought through and crafted considering diverse content preferences. Another key feature is the introduction of innovative pricing, which offers access to multiple genres with one subscription.

As the streaming industry grows and evolves, companies must adapt and refine their cord-switcher management strategies to remain competitive.

Transforming Linear TV to Manage Cord-Switchers 

As the world shifts towards digital media and streaming platforms, it is easy to overlook the potential growth opportunities for linear TV. However, linear TV is mighty, especially when managing cord-switchers who move between traditional cable or satellite TV and streaming services.

Despite the competition, linear TV remains a popular source of entertainment that advertisers can utilise to reach a broad and diverse audience through targeted ads. Additionally, it offers live programming such as news, local sports, and events plus more content by virtue of its library that streaming services cannot replicate.

As we look to the future of linear TV, it is clear that the landscape has shifted significantly in recent years. With the rise of cord-cutters and cord-switchers, traditional TV has experienced a reduction in its customer base. But that doesn’t mean the end of linear TV. On the contrary, there are still plenty of opportunities for growth and success.

To continue thriving in the digital age, linear TV providers must adapt to changing consumer behaviours and utilise innovative strategies. Here are some insights from industry professionals:

  • Offer a range of subscription options that cater to different viewing habits and budgets.
  • Embrace over-the-top (OTT) services and integrate them into linear TV offerings.
  • As technology advances, incorporate interactive elements like social media integration and personalised recommendations.
  • Strategic tie-ups with streaming services provide customers access to linear and streaming content in one package.
  • Create exclusive content and events that viewers can only access through linear TV subscriptions.
  • Be genuinely platform agnostic. Be present across social media platforms to engage viewers and promote content.
  • Use targeted advertising to generate additional revenue and reduce commercial breaks.
  • Focus on high-quality content that can compete with the variety and convenience of OTT services.
  • Look at regionalisation and hyper-localisation of content to stay relevant.
  • Continuously evaluate and adapt strategies to keep up with changing viewer preferences and technological advancements.


To tap into these opportunities, linear TV providers must adapt to the changing market and invest in technology. Providers can stay relevant and attract new audiences by embracing innovative content and distribution strategies and engaging viewers on multiple platforms.

The key to success in this new era of TV is personalisation. By targeting specific niches and providing more personalised experiences, providers can create a loyal fan base and ensure long-term success.

Overall, the future of linear TV is bright, and providers must embrace change and invest in new technologies that will equip them to meet the challenges ahead. It is an exciting time for the industry, and we cannot wait to see how the future unfolds.

What Will Linear TV Look Like in Five Years?

Linear TV will be around for many years. However, the scale of operation, the size and the quality of the content library may get altered to compete with the diversity and suitability of OTT platforms. Original programming in its current avatar (Long form content) may reduce. There may also be more repeats. Even so, Linear TV will continue to drive family viewing in single TV households since Indians are rooted in their cultural traditions. Hence, Linear TV continues to witness appointment viewing or a set of consumption pattern for the content suitable for a family to watch together.  There are many daily soaps which are still running for more than a decade and continues to enjoy substantial viewership from such households. Therefore, one foresees strong growth here.

The joy of watching live programs, one-time mega-events, political discussions during election counting days, or cheering for the favourite sports team is what attracts an ordinary Indian viewer. A survey shows that Indians still prefer watching certain shows on TV and not on mobile. Therefore, this, coupled with the affordability and accessibility of TV, means that linear TV penetration in India is likely to grow steadily.