Competition is toughening among Hindi general entertainment channels (GEC) with the number of players in the domain doubling. The stress now would be on where the monies would come from for investments in this domain, availability of skilled talent and, more importantly, getting viewers. The fact that television in India is still driven by advertising revenues, and that the digital addressability systems still have time to take off here is not making things any easier.
Amongst the first generation of GECs, STAR Plus has been a clear leader in the last six years. However, the market dynamics have led to a scene where Zee TV has closed the gap. Among the six players in the field, arguably Star One, Sahara One and SAB are still fighting to attain a more prominent position, while all of Sony Entertainment’s steps still haven’t brought it back to the No. 2 position it clearly claimed a year back.
The second generation or Gen Next has at least six channels in the fray already – channels from NDTV Imagine, INX Media and Viacom – 18 in addition to Zee Next, Bindass and others are in the pipeline.
Expected increase in ad revenues, and check on media inflation
In terms of advertising revenues, TAM Media Research’s AdEx has shown that advertising revenues in India have increased year-on-year and Hindi GEC has seen its share of growth as well. However, one school of thought is that the seen increase in Hindi GEC might also be a function of the increase in rates rather than in the volumes taken in the genre.
Media experts believe that there would be money for everyone once the number of channels increases. Shashi Sinha, CEO, Lodestar Universal, said, “The new players would further increase various ways of advertisers partnering with channels and content, like structure AFP (advertiser funded programming), branded content and product placements. This would lead to an increase on the monies spent in Hindi general entertainment.”
Agreeing with him, Manish Porwal, MD, Starcom, South and West, said, “The likes of STAR Plus and Zee TV will see an arrest in the growth of their advertising revenues. The increase in choices would give more negotiating powers to advertisers and there would be a check on media inflation, which is seen today despite a fall in numbers.”
Porwal also believes that the face of advertising would change. He said, “Channels – first and second generation – will experiment on giving embedded solutions to advertisers, in content, and therefore the face of advertising would change. We would see more attempts at disruption versus shocking. This increase will open up the industry per se.”
A vindication of this is already seen in a recent comment made by ZEEL Chairman Subhash Chandra at a media event that Zee Next would be all about advertiser funded programming and branded content.
Gone are the days of high TRPs
On the count of TRPs, experts are clear that the days of double digits are over, and for that matter even the higher single digits would cease to exist soon. Lead players like STAR Plus and Zee TV would lose on channel shares with the advent of more players. “It wouldn’t be an issue of ratings but of response going forward,” Sinha pointed out.
Media experts believe that audiences would move from the current fare due to the fatigue that has set in. TME’s President Anupriya Acharya said, “Audience will sample all new offerings primarily because of the stagnant point reached by the current offerings.”
Porwal added, “GE has been seeing loss of viewership, and without doubt, the first generation channels will see more. Also, I see the growth of other genre like regional channels and news channels not seeing the kind of pace that they are.” He further explained that as the numbers-per-channel went down, the opportunities for even some first generation channels would grow.
Another trend that the experts are expecting is the fructifying of sub-genres in a genre. For instance, reality TV would soon be specialised further, and there would be different kinds of reality shows.
The big problem that every one points out is distribution. Sinha said, “Much on who gets the TRPs and viewers, and hence, more of the ad pie really depends on distribution. The channels have to make themselves visible.”
Acharya added, “The key here will be distribution, hence only if the channels are available for sampling coupled with marketing efforts, will the initial viewership happen. Subsequently, it will be for the programme to hold itself. The main beneficiaries will be those who can get network cross promos like Zee, NDTV, Viacom-18, and to some extent Sahara One. The totally new entrants like INX, BAG, and UTV will have to find innovative solutions to counter the disadvantage.”
Giving another word of caution to the likes of Zee TV, Porwal said, “The scene now is very similar to what it was some years back when Zee TV was the No. 1 player and Sony had grown significantly, poised to be the No. 1. However, in that much time, STAR Plus launched KBC, and the rest is history. So, Zee TV has to be very careful of the new channels and ensure that its growth continues.”
Experts state that given the fact India is an under leveraged country, advertising revenues will have to grow further and the next five to 10 years will continually see this correction coming in. While this is good news for the second generation of Hindi GECs, evolving business models can make all the difference.