It is a known fact that ratings of niche channels in India are not even close to that of mass entertainment channels. One might think that the results might vary for the premium target group C&S SEC-A 25+. But even in this group, mass channels dominate the scene.
Despite this, media planners maintain that the best bet to target this section is specialised channels with a preference towards the news genre. To put things into perspective, let’s begin with the ultimate arbitrator for media planners while choosing channels – numbers. TAM media research findings of the Hindi speaking markets for the period December 14, 2003 to January 10, 2004 indicate that mass channels rule the roost. For the mentioned target, the deliveries are more than double in comparison to any other genre.
At an average for this period, where mass channels deliver a 31.14 channel share, sports has grossed a 12.02 per cent. However, this is an increased figure from regular ratings, affected due to the cricket matches. Else the second in line is usually news and the average channel share for this period is 10.57 per cent. Hindi films with 8.75 per cent and English entertainment with 4.68 per cent follows this. Music and English movie channels are next in line.
Despite this kind of parity between the numbers in mass and niche, planners maintain that specialised channels are used to reach higher SECs and imagery. Genres like news, sports and Hindi films are better than English entertainment, music and other niches but as per planners they are all important. Says PRP Nair, Senior Vice President, Media Direction, “TV is necessarily a medium of frequency. Unless you are a big spender, you cannot utilise the medium in that fashion if you go along with general entertainment channels. A mass channel might give you all the numbers but what is the use if the brand appears only twice on the channel or on a programme.”
He adds, “Even with high numbers, at end of the day the total delivery versus component matters. Then you find niche channels a good option offering the advantage of lower wastage.”
Harish Shriyan, Senior Vice President, MediaCom states, “Mass channels will throw bigger numbers but when you want to get the more-spending consumers, then niche channels is where you will find them.”
As per planners, in a case of delivery versus efficiency, niche channels favour the latter. The cost-effective factor of this segment puts them in media plans despite the small ratings.
Nair explains, “Sports figures during cricket season are phenomenal. But cricket is like entertainment, making sports more mass than niche. This is a very seasonal attribute. On a regular basis, news is a stronger niche to bet on. In news, the same audience is not watching news every hour. So, over a period you build up reach. So with such channels you use TV as a frequency medium, effectively with impact.”
Agreeing to this, Shriyan adds, “The stickiness is definitely higher in niche channels and news in particular, along with English entertainment. If you compare channel wise also, the ratings are barely there, but the fact is that these channels get quality in audience.”
Can niche channels alone get the SEC A target? “Niche is only an important part but you cannot have the plan without mass channels,” replies Shriyan. “Depending on the product profile, it is a mix that one has to arrive at. But if you don’t include something that gives numbers, both planners and the clients will not be comfortable.”
While looking at figures, one more component that draws attention is local cable channels. In the given time period of December 14 to January 10, this segment claims 10.65 average channel share, which is more than what the news genre grossed. However, as per planners, due to the unorganised structure of this section, they are not considered in media plans at all.
Though planners feel that there is potential in the medium, due to disadvantages like quality of telecast, difficulty in measurement and unstructured programming, they are sceptical to put any slots on such channels.