Cable TV channels expected to get political ads worth almost Rs 50 crore this election

Spend on political advertisements in local cable channels have gone up by more than 100 per cent compared to the 2014 elections, say industry experts

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Published: Apr 4, 2019 8:26 AM  | 4 min read

What could be a better medium than local cable channels for politicians to give a local twist to their national agenda and reach out to the people who will vote for them. While social media might be enjoying the giant share of investments when it comes to political advertising, local cable channels across the country have also upped their importance this poll season.

Spends on political advertisements on local cable channels have gone up by more than 100 per cent compared to the 2014 elections, say experts from the industry.

According to Sharad Alwe, Managing Director, Update Advertising, an aggregator of regional cable TV advertising across India, national and regional parties together would have spent between Rs 8 crore and Rs 10 crore in the recent state elections across all options on the cable networks. “In 2014, the spends on cable channels were in the range of Rs 20 crore. This year, we expect it to be around Rs 50 crore,” says Alwe.

With the recent TRAI ruling on tariff, one of the biggest advantages these channels have is localised reach. Since cable channels are specific to the parent cable network, they are part of the distributor’s (cable operator) base pack, giving the channel the reach. The consumption of cable channels increases as one moves away from the metros with people wanting to consume content that is relatable to them.

According to experts, a candidate spends anywhere between Rs 50,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh on cable channels as a part of his/her election campaign.

“Today, a mix of news, entertainment, movie, music and other genres of local channels are available. In fact, there are more than 20-25 such channels available in every constituency. This means that each constituency can be targeted in a localised way. For example, news channels give a platform to debate or highlight issues and demonstrate the good work done. The other channels can be used for campaigning purposes,” explains Alwe.

Another factor for political parties and candidates to choose cable channels for advertisement is that these channels are cost effective.

“Advertising in local channels is way more cost effective. For example, if a candidate is from Ponnaani in Malappuram district of Kerala, it makes sense if he reaches out to the localites of that constituency only. His advertisements would be redundant and irrelevant for other regions in Kerala,” says Krishna Kumar, consultant at Kerala Vision Channel broadcasting limited KCBL- Cochin 

Sometimes local cable channels replace the more traditional media platforms, which may not be available in a particular place. “For example, during last year's state elections in Chhattisgarh, parties used cable channels extensively to reach out to voters. It was helpful as the terrain in the region does not support outdoor advertising to a large extent,” Alwe says.

Content in various formats are being put up on these local cable channels. “Apart from commercials and branded advertising at high frequency, both big and small political parties have got a special liking for new channel agnostic properties like Electronic Program Guide (EPG) and Bootup. These properties ensure undivided reach with maximum coverage and impact,” adds Alwe.

According to Roop Sharma, president of the Cable Operators Federation of India, alongside political advertisements, there is also paid programming by political parties that are adding on as a revenue source for local cable channels. Content with duration between 1 minute and 3 minutes being run by political parties on these channels mostly in the local language of the area caters to it.

For smaller political parties, local cable channels are the only television advertising they can afford. And for bigger parties, these channels matter because of their local reach.

“Cable channels in local languages are relevant because they have a huge reach. It has always been used in elections for campaigning purposes but it was done sparingly. This time, however, there is concentrated effort to use the reach and the hyper local nature of the cable channels where candidates can communicate in local language and dialects too for that extra personal touch to connect with residents of their constituencies. Most political parties are using the medium this season,” said Naresh Arora, political strategist and director of campaign management company Design Boxed.

Design Boxed is one of the four creative agencies hired by the Congress to design its campaigns this poll season.

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