Is there a future for FTA (Free-To-Air) television advertising?


Malaysia enjoys a healthy stream of television viewers where the people have a lot of choices when it comes to entertainment through this media.

Throughout the years, Malaysians have enjoyed FTA (Free-To-Air) television entertainment through government-owned channels like TV1 and TV2 (formerly known as RTM1 and RTM2) as well as the privately-owned ones like Media Prima’s TV3, NTV7, 8TV and Channel 9.

FTA Channels still very significant

FTA channels are free to view which is available through any standard television set. They have been included as part of the offerings of satellite television companies like Astro and the TM-owned HyppTV IPTV services as well.

Changing scenario in television

Where this is concerned, analysts strongly believe that the future of television advertising will surely be in the area of satellite and Pay-TV because more and more people are able to afford these services. Furthermore, with more operators like iFlix coming into the market, the price of services will surely reduce as competition heats up.

In Malaysia, the situation is one which is very unique. While services like Astro and HyppTV are growing in popularity, FTA channels are still very much the preferred choices among viewers, particularly in rural areas. Statistics showed that TV viewing is growing in favour of Pay TV but this is moving at a slower pace than expected.

Not much has changed for FTA channels

Between 2006 and 2012, the market share between FTA and Pay TV has not changed as much as speculated. Not too long ago in 2006, 75.1% of viewers watched FTA while the rest watched Pay TV. 6 years later, FTA viewers are still more than Pay TV customers where there are 59.9% of the former and 40.1% of the latter which by any standards has not improved that much.

This situation is mainly because, there have not been too many new players in the market. It must be noted here that while Astro has been the major (and only) satellite TV service provider in Malaysia, it has not changed much apart from adding new channels in several segments.

Innovation is the game-changer

With market share diminishing and losing a lot to Pay TV, FTA channels like NTV7, TV1 and TV2 are moving faster and improving quicker than Pay TV services. This is where FTA channels are taking every effort they can to ensure that they remain relevant and the preferred choices among the viewers.

Among some factors that need to be considered are:

  • TV3 leads the market share of FTA channels with a 27.5% viewership
  • TV9 holds 7.7% in market share
  • TV2 holds 7.4%
  • 8TV which is more focused and targeted holds 6.3% of the market share

To a large extent, it can be argued that FTA’s target market differs from Pay TV but the reality is that the latter is moving into the same market group as FTA where both the target markets cannot be distinguished from one another.

FTA channels are still very relevant in Malaysia although Pay TV services are growing in dominance and prominence. Although Pay TV will eventually take over a lot of viewership from the FTA’s segment, it will be a while before FTA services become obsolete. After all, these channels are included in the packages of the Pay TV offerings.


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