Whether it was lack of choice or a major calculated gamble, but 9X’s decision to air only repeat programming even after the dispute between the workers and producers was over has put the channel in an uncomfortable position with quite a few advertisers. While some media agencies have renegotiated their deals with the channel or have taken the channel off their media plans. At the same time, there are those also agencies that are comfortable with the fact that the channel is still delivering the kind of GRPs that it was even with original programming.
Pawan Jailkhani, Senior VP - Ad Sales, INX Media, informed exchange4media that at present, the channel was not seeing many renegotiations or deal cancellations. He said, “All of our clients have been supportive and continue to include us in their plans. 9X GRPs have not been impacted much despite our decision to air only repeats for now. We are still delivering the relevant eyeballs to the advertisers and so there are no problems.”
Does this have a positive impact on the channel’s revenues, considering that there aren’t any programming or marketing costs, and if the channel is indeed not seeing too many deal renegotiations? Jailkhani replied, “It is not going to stay like this. Once we have decided on the new programming strategy, it would be business as usual. For now, yes, the revenues for the channel are looking good, but as I said, we are delivering the relevant eyeballs to the advertisers.”
9X GRPs continued to move between 40 GRPs and 50 GRPs in the last few weeks. More than the ratings itself, some of the media agency heads are questioning the quality of the ratings and the production cost of the channel.
Stay, Renegotiate, Exit: Agencies React
Ajit Varghese, MD, Maxus India, believes that the eyeballs were coming to the channel, and hence, the ratings mattered. He said, “If there is a very expensive show that is delivering below 1 TRP, would we pay high for it just because the programming cost is high? We would not, and the same rationale applies here. To begin with, if the repeat telecast is giving the same numbers as the original, it is evident that the content was not working anyway. But there is not much concern if there is no significant drop in ratings.”
On the other hand, Anamika Mehta, COO, Lodestar Universal, said, “The situation has led to renegotiation and subsequent dropping of prices from the channel. This will continue until such time that they don’t have fresh programming. Repeat programming, and that too programming that has not done well, even if shown in different formats and day parts, is fine. However, it leads to a definite erosion of relevant eyeballs. This has a direct impact in the current channel scenario, where there is pressure of costs and to ensure efficiencies.”
TME is among the agencies that have completely pulled out from 9X. Divya Radhakrishnan, President, TME, told exchange4media, “We do not advertise on 9X anymore, and it is primarily for two reasons. First, we understand the requisite to support a channel when it is going through a tough patch, but 9X never bothered to inform us when they continued with repeat programming even when everyone else was on original content from December, we found out from others. Second, they may be getting the ratings, but we know where those numbers are coming from. In which case, we may as well be on a channel like Star Utsav. 9X cannot be evaluated on the same parameter as other GECs.”
It may be recalled that some of the advertisers like Hindustan Unilever had entered into a three-year deal with 9X in December 2007. When asked on how HUL’s agency Mindshare was viewing this, R Gowthaman, Leader, Mindshare South Asia, said, “We have a very different mechanism that works in such deals, and this is being aptly worked out in this case as well.”
9X officials have informed that the reason the channel decided to continue with repeats was to revisit its programming strategy. Since then, the channel has seen the exit of its Programming Head for Fiction, Kumud Choudhary, and many other officials across some of its key disciplines. The channel has as yet not resumed any shooting and this would mean that the channel would be in repeat mode for the next few weeks on a minimum.
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