Broadcasters are changing the way they sell. ETV Network and TV Today are prime examples of pure Network selling. Sony moved from network to pure channel selling. Zee TV incorporated a mixed structure, selling network to select agencies and channels to the others. Very recently, STAR Group induced Network for its top 50 clients and channels for the rest. Turner India is in pure channel selling but has network selling as an option for some clients. What do they gain or lose, given the structure they are in?
In recent times, only a few broadcasters have seen changes in their sales patterns and largely attribute it to the increasing media fragmentation and the needs of advertisers to meet specific targets. On the one hand, there are cases like TV Today, NDTV and ETV Networks that have always been in network selling. Giving a perspective here, Rajnish Rikhy, Head, Ad Sales, TV Today Group, explained, “We are purely in the news genre and hence, the products from the group have a synergy. It is sensible to sell them together than separately.”
SET India’s Ad Sales Head, Rohit Gupta thinks differently for his network, “The way of selling is dependent on the stage of the network. At SET India, we were in network selling till the channels needed support. Now each of these channels has become a pillar and can be sold standalone, so that is a better option for us.”
Zee TV and STAR India observe a combination structure. “It is deriving the best of both,” said STAR spokesperson, “With the big spenders, who buy in all genres dealing on a network basis means offering solutions to specific needs.”
Agreeing and adding further, Joy Chakraborthy, EVP, Sales, Zee Telefilms, said, “It is not so much of selling as servicing when you are speaking on a network level and in today’s times it is a requisite. The last thing a client needs is to be confused by different kinds of sales talk. Network selling allows you uniform communication.”
Does network selling also mean a network pushing a weak brand to the advertiser? “You can’t arm-twist anyone,” replied Chakraborthy, “The client will take what he requires.”
The STAR spokesperson further said, “That would beat the purpose of setting the structure we have now. The idea is to offer solutions to clients, make a media plan for them. If a brand makes sense to their need, even niche in nature, only then the client would take it. Nothing can be pushed down anyone’s throat.”
A common point that network sellers bring out is the unification of the point of contact. The STAR spokesperson cited an example, “If a client says, I want this ad across channels at 9.00 pm, in network selling you can promise it then and there. In standalone, decent time would be consumed in coordination.”
While it is established that broadcasters who opt for network selling do so in a bid to offer their clients better services and solutions, standalone channel sellers believe that, single channel selling is the only way you can know the brand well enough to sell it.
“Everyone is battling for the same ad pie,” said Monica Tata, Vice-President, All India Advertising Sales, Turner International India, “The only way to stand out in the crowd is to know your brand better! And that can only happen when you represent ‘a’ brand as opposed to selling a bunch of channels, as it is humanly not possible to know all your products inside out. Thus, when you have dedicated channel representatives they are more passionate, more focussed, and more knowledgeable therefore better equipped to offer best and variety of solutions to clients and work the best deals for them and thus able to make an impact – stand out in the crowd.”
Agreeing with her, Rikhy remarked, “Standalone channel selling is done to bring in focus. There is brand dilution when you push smaller channels in the network. Clients can ask for a rebate on all the channels in such cases.”
Channel selling, according to experts, was the only way to convert small spenders and non-spenders into TV consumers and hence, expand the category per se. According to Chakraborthy, “There is more sampling when just one channel is sold. Also you can convince a client to start with one channel. New business largely comes when people focus on any one product.”
Examples like STAR India, which has moved from network to channel to combination, show that depending on the channels’ life stage and market dynamics, the pattern of selling will differ and accordingly affect ad revenues. However, irrespective of the selling structure, the sales professional had to know the product, only then would he/she get the “big idea to sell it”, Monica Tata pointed out.