The year 2013 saw a slew of significant developments taking place in the television industry in India, which will pave the future course for this industry. The year saw digitisation panning out across the country at a frenetic pace, and despite being the biggest medium, the onslaught of digital media raised questions about the RoI on TV. Therefore, the industry, which otherwise is not known for too many turbulences, was full of action this year.
exchange4media takes a look at some of the major developments in broadcast space this year.
10+2 ad cap:
In the month of March, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) reinstated the Quality of Service norms (QoS) as per the CTNR laws, 1995 for the broadcasters. As per the norm which was initially published as consultation paper in August 2012, every broadcaster can run only 12 minutes of advertisements in an hour. This may include 10 minutes of commercial advertising and 2 minutes of self promotion. The move was vehemently opposed by a section of the community. The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) filed a petition against TRAI in the TDSAT. Some Music (9Xm B4U, etc) , regional( Manoranjan TV, etc) and some national entertainment channels (Sony group) too opposed the move. TRAI had even initiated criminal proceedings against CEOs of channels who did not follow the mandated ad cap. TDSAT meanwhile had stayed the ad cap and had agreed to hear the case in November.
Current Status: Recently after the SC judgement which stated that TDSAT cannot interfere in the judgements of TRAI, NBA has filed a petition in the High Court from where they got an interim relief till March. However other broadcasters will either file separate petitions against the order or will use judgements in the NBA case as a shield. Mainline GECs like Star, Zee and Colors follow the ad cap while some infotainment channels also claim of following the ad cap. All the channels have to file their ad duration to the regulator.
In the month of June, MSM group suspended its subscription from TAM, the only agency which measures television audience. Soon after that other broadcasters also stared following the suite. This created a flux in the industry as advertisers and marketers were confused as to what will be the audience measurement mechanism. The broadcasters had alleged that the TAM ratings were not superlative and did not actually represent the ground reality. TAM on the other hand alleged that they are ready to expand their operational capacities but mentioned that broadcasters are not ready to pay the money for that. Advertisers, media planners and Marketers did not agree with the broadcasters and said that they would not advertise on the channels which did not have TAM ratings.
Current Status: IBF, ISA, AAI came up with a joint statement that till there is no other mechanism in the industry TAM ratings would be used by the stakeholders. Also the press would not be given the GRPs or TVRs (which will be used for internal evaluation by TAM subscribers only) but TVTs which would define Television Viewership in thousands. Apart from this the stakeholders are looking forward to Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) as an alternative to TAM. The agency is expected to begin its operations within 2014. Most of the broadcasters still feel that the TAM ratings are not up to the mark and do not represent actual viewership.
Gross vs net billings:
The tax authorities issued notices to broadcasters in April that they were liable to be taxed on the gross bill amount and not the net amount they receive. Broadcasters then insisted on net billings without the agency commission, but the media agencies refused this. Matter came to halt when IBF after weeks of negotiations issued directives to their members not to carry ads which did not comply with its billing requirements. There was a complete blackout of most of the ads on TV for two days.
Current Status: After hectic negotiations between representatives of Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI), it was agreed that agencies would follow the practice of issuing 'net' bills instead of the previous 'gross' billing system.
Digitisation and Channel distribution:
The year 2013 saw lot of development in the area of digitization. Although issues at the ground still need to be addressed. The number of petitions in the TDSAT court has increased tremendously involving TRAI, MSOs, LCOs, and DTH players. TRAI issued significant number of consultation papers and directives regarding distribution in India. The mandates from TRAI basically covered Guidelines for MSOs, DTH players, and broadcasters while entering into Interconnection agreements with each other.
Current Status: Broadcasters feel that the carriage fee is still high and they still do not get appropriate subscription revenues. TRAI has asked all the MSOs to complete all the Consumer Application Forms (CAF) by the end of year 2013. Digitization has progressed but the markets of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh are very slow. Worse is the Southern Market of Chennai, where rate of digitization is not even 5 per cent.
Other Developments: FDI limits in the broadcast space were discussed between MIB and TRAI. IBF was pro active this year in regulating content on TV. Channels were sent notices if any content were found unviable. Apart from this the industry also saw new channel launches this year like: Romedy Now, Zee Anmol, &Pictures, and a new GEC called Rishtey will be launched by Viacom 18 in January 2014. Star India also rebranded its sports segment completely by launching 4 SD sports channels and 2 HD channels and dissolved ESPN. Few existing channels also went for rebranding. Prime among them were: Sony Pix, Channel V, UTV Disney, and ZEE Corporate.
Learning for Broadcasters:
Broadcasting industry will remember the year 2013 for commanding substantial efforts in making the industry transparent and organized. From Content on TV to channel distribution to measurement mechanisms to ad regulation, accountability was questioned. Also in some cases old models were questioned and their existence in contemporary times was challenged. Although issues still need to be resolved completely and the turbulences are likely to be continued in 2014, TV industry (from content to distribution) has certainly taken significant steps towards organized structure.