Reports on the transition of digitisation in the four metro markets that Digital Addressable System (DAS) Phase 1 has kicked off in, have been a positive indication that the Indian broadcasting ecosystem is ready for a higher form of television viewing experience coming from the digital route. Cities such as Mumbai and Delhi have seen digital penetration higher than expectation and have registered minimum drop in conversion to digital households.
TAM Media Research CEO LV Krishnan captured this best when he commented, “Conditional Access System (CAS) was a disaster. But DAS and the manner in which the industry, the government and all stakeholders including the ISA (Indian Society of Advertisers) and AAAI (Advertising Agencies Association of India) have united for it is marvellous. This has delivered fantastic results, opening up many new growth avenues for the industry at large.”
The industry is yet not privy to viewership patterns that emerge from the digital landscape that had begun in at least three of the four cities of DAS Phase 1, from November 1, 2012. But TAM’s observation coming not only from viewership data but also from the Establishment Survey it had conducted for DAS puts across points that different industry stakeholders should take note of.
TV viewership will grow
DAS’ first implication on the overall television industry is that the viewership pie on the whole will grow. Krishnan says that DAS will bring fragmentation and consolidation both to television.
“Audience experimentation is not going to end with digitisation. Viewers will want to look for content that is stimulating them to come and watch. If there is a marketing campaign of a channel available to viewers under DAS, there would be audiences that would want to sample that content. That could mean fragmentation since more viewing options open up but audience loyalties have been created all along the analogue age and that would not change because of a set top box. Those who to continue to market aggressively will consolidate viewership to themselves,” stated Krishnan.
The nature in which channels are clustered would lead to increased viewership within specific genres that viewers are interested in. The hunt for a channel or the probability of a channel of choice missing on their television would be eliminated in the DAS scheme, leading to more engagement. “Channels are going to invest to increase their voice since competition, in a manner of speaking, is at a more even playing field. Hence, the amount of time spent on TV per se will grow and we will see all advantages of a larger viewership pie,” said Krishnan.
Clustering of channels in a genre-wise fashion opens up opportunities for various players.
Networks would be stronger with newer opportunities
For the first time, viewers’ inclination towards a genre itself would play out in a more competitive way given the sheer access to all channels in that genre. For instance, in a cable environment, viewers interested in Hindi general entertainment may not put Channel V as an option for themselves. But in an electronic programme guide set up, when the viewer has to go through Channel V to reach another Hindi GE, trespass viewership benefits will accrue to Channel V.
From a broadcast network viewpoint, it means more options in a genre will play out for better results. The likes of STAR India and Multi Screen Media have already taken steps in that direction that would further reward them under DAS.
Given the changed access to channels in comparison to a cable platform, DAS would also mean that individual players would have to look out for new windows of opportunities to attract viewers. For a Network that has presence across genres, making such windows available would be far easier than individual channels.
Expectations from marketing & content will increase for mass channels
The larger channels, which in effect includes Hindi general entertainment channels, regional general entertainment channels and even Hindi and regional movie channels, are expected to lose some shares in the initial stage of DAS. According to Krishnan, this is a situation that over a period of time can be tackled by right marketing initiatives and offering engaging content.
Digitisation also means rationalising of spends towards distribution cost. Therefore, for those who want, an increase in marketing budgets could be made. Under DAS, marketing would become more critical to individual channels than it was before.
Positive and negative impact for news as a genre
Not too many channels tune in to specifically only watch news channels. But as they surfed through looking for entertainment content of some kind, the phenomenon of trespass viewership worked in the favour of news channels. “Once audiences come in, then there is engagement and time spent is high. But those who are not searching and landing on a news channel may not walk in on to a news channel at all. The advantage of distribution placement in prime positions and therefore the walk-in generated will decrease,” pointed out Krishnan.
He believes that for news channels too, marketing will play a much more important role now. The other side of this is that people who are interested in news content would now be able to sample more of it, across the channels in the genre hence leading to more involvement in the category.
Niche genres show 5-7 per cent growth in viewership
Factual Entertainment, English general entertainment and other such special interest channels are some of the biggest benefiters of DAS.
From a niche channel viewpoint, the advent of DAS means the ability to showcase a higher viewership to advertisers. Some networks have even taken the ad free route for niche channels to encourage subscription revenues. Krishnan is of the opinion that while an argument can be made for an ad-free business model, the better road is to work with shorter ad durations than no ads at all. “Consumers want ads. They want to have a break to do things simultaneously and especially when they are viewing TV for three to four hours at a stretch. Ads allow this for consumers so in India, a no-ad scenario is not required yet,” explained Krishnan.
Day part segmentation and targeted advertising
So far, TAM Media Research has not noted any drastic change in drop in viewership during ad breaks on television. Ad avoidance on TV in 2007 was 22 per cent, and today despite the increase in clutter, it is at 25 per cent. And DAS brings unprecedented opportunities to advertisers.
In the cable regime, especially for genres such as sports, a channel would be available for a limited time period. But advertisers no longer need to fear displacement of a channel after a key property was over. So, not only the Live match but its highlights can also be looked at as a serious option for utilising inventories.
“In a digital environment, accessibility is guaranteed and from a viewer perspective, engagement is dependent on the stimuli a channel provides. DAS allows the possibility to engage audiences and hence advertisers can look for day part segmentation and audience segmentation in their messaging,” informed Krishnan.
The inventory will get flattened out because of the guarantee that a channel is available and viewed by relevant TG through the day.
“Advertising mostly peaks during primetime which includes active and passive viewers. With demarcated viewing, you can have engagement for a specific kind of audience, and hence target your message to your TG better,” added Krishnan.
Life as usual for now for media planners and buyers
While in the longer run, the effects of fragmentation, growth of the long tail and how a channel markets itself will make all the difference to viewership habits, at present for a media planner, digitisation does not lead to cutting or doing runs in any different manner. While TAM advises looking at digital data for a comparison of viewership habit pre and post DAS, it would not be incorrect to look at the overall numbers too as long as the data runs are done separately.