Over 70 per cent of mass media time in India is spent on television and if recent reports are anything to go by, the sector is poised to see more. Most industry leaders classify television as a strong medium. Print is still a step ahead as far as mass media is concerned but when it comes to entertainment, nothing beats television.
To get a glimpse of the medium's growth, let's look at a few numbers from the FICCI-PricewaterhouseCoopers annual edition of Indian Entertainment Industry: An unfolding opportunity. According to the study, the entertainment industry will grow annually at 18 per cent to reach Rs 45,000 crore in 2009 and the growth will be spearheaded by television. The anticipated growth, which is 18 per cent will take the sector to Rs 30,000 crore by 2009.
Subscription revenues will drive the television segment in the next five years. In the short-term, subscription revenues will gain primarily from increases in number of C&S households and improved realisations.
The sector has seen massive action in the last two years with many new players coming in. News channels have seen a burst since 2003 and today in the Hindi speaking market alone, stand at a grand total of 15 news channels. Kids’ channels (eight of them now) and lifestyle/niche channels added to the 'clutter' in 2004. And with the new players, the benefits and problems of numbers have come in.
The audience have been continually increasing. From the 25 million households that ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ was attempting to lure in 2004, almost double audience will test KBC 2. Despite this, if TAM Media Research numbers are observed fragmentation is a reality. In all cases, the leaders have lost share – from the 70 per cent that Aaj Tak once claimed to today's average of 30 per cent. Cartoon Network has seen a considerable drop in 2004 too.
Industry leaders, though have varied perceptions on fragmentation, are looking at situation seriously. Some actions in the course is seen where players are following the dual step of consolidating their position and floating more channels in the same genre. A few cases in point – Cartoon Network came with POGO, STAR launched Star One, Discovery introduced Discovery Travel and Living and CNBC TV-18 has brought in Awaaz.
With the audience pie being divided and the niche channels selling perceptions rather than numbers (it is difficult to sell numbers when they are in decimals), the ad pie is facing a similar fate – good news for some, bad news for others. On the ad-pie factor industry leaders stand divided. Lead players from the general entertainment genre to news genre have expressed time and again that an increase in players will grow the market enough to increase the ad pie but a good amount of players already know that this is easier said than experienced.
However, when it comes to distribution, ‘the more the merrier,’ is a joke. Addressability platforms like DTH (Direct to Home) and HITS (Headend in the Sky) can fuel multi-channel growth but the arena still has problems. Even as Zee has launched Dish TV and DD brought in DD Direct Plus, other ventures like the Tata and STAR Network coaliton are still awaiting clearances.
Without these developments, the current C&S distribution platform is facing a problem in housing more channels. The proof of this comes in the fact that where over 300 channels are beamed in the country, not even 10 per cent are spoken about. This problem only gets accentuated with the fact that country lacks a robust ratings system. Due to the present sample size, niche channels find it difficult to find their footing. The lack in numbers makes it difficult for advertisers to indulge in targeted marketing.
Only two years back General Entertainment channels (GEC) was arguably the only genre. Depending on the research findings one saw – the share moved from 95 per cent to 98 per cent. But this has seen a sea change already. Even though, it continues to the king with a lion's share, today the share moves from 55 per cent to 65 per cent.
Without exception, all reports indicate that content will always be king and spearhead television growth. However, lack of research in the area is giving the 'king' problems of its own. However, television has a million battles to fight and a lot many steps have to be taken to channel and fuel its growth.