As an industry, we will be back in a bigger & more substantial way: Pawan Jailkhani

In today's edition of 'Beating All Odds', Pawan Jailkhani, Chief Revenue Officer of 9X Media, speaks with Naziya Alvi Rahman, Editor of e4m

e4m by Naziya Alvi Rahman
Updated: May 8, 2020 8:36 AM
Beating All Odds with Pawan Jailkhani, Chief Revenue Officer, 9X Media

In our series 'Beating All Odds', we bring you leaders, who despite so many challenges thrown at us due to the COVID-19 lockdown, are ensuring that businesses stay on track and are continuing to contributing to our economy.

Today we speak to Pawan Jailkhani, Chief Revenue Officer of 9X Media.

TV consumption has increased during this lockdown, but how has the situation impacted the music genre?

1-2 weeks pre-lockdown and post the FTA regime last year, TV viewership had been on a growth path. Since everyone is under severe lockdown now, this (rise in consumption) is bound to happen. There has been roughly 46-48% overall growth in TV viewership across all genres. Now, out of each genre, GEC has been on repeat mode because they are unable to shoot new episodes and churn new content. But the other genres, whether it's news, movies, or music and the kids' genre, we have seen decent growth. If we compare the music genre during pre and post COVID times, we have seen roughly around 6-10% growth in viewership overall, particularly in my network. We have also been able to stabilise; there has not been a decline, but there has been moderate growth. Obviously the news genre will grow because news consumption has grown in the last month or so. So while news has been dominating consumption, other genres have also seen decent growth.

In the music genre specifically, post the FTA regime last year, music reach has been extremely strong and has perhaps been higher than news, or even higher than movie channels in certain markets – largely Hindi speaking markets (HSM) and mostly non- urban markets. But yes, news has seen the maximum growth, because we are all anxious, we need updates, we need to see what uncertainty is surrounding us. For that matter, even Doordarshan has also grown.

What kind of consumption trends have you observed in the music genre during this lockdown? Is there any change in the way people were consuming your channel before and now?

With relation to music, our prime time used to be in the mornings because we run a break free slot in the mornings and this applies across all music channels. While we have seen that grow to a large extent, we have also seen other time slots growing much higher in terms of consumption. Secondly, what we have consciously done around these times, particularly on our flagship channel 9XM, we generally ran very upbeat dance-centric/youth-centric music. Seeing the mood-mapping around this time, seeing the sentiments around the country and globally, we have toned down the music right now. Primarily because people will not tend to dance or see upbeat music at this time. Because of this, we have also seen time spent going up for certain time slots in certain time bands.

With regards to changing consumption pattern, if 40% GRP used to come from the morning time slot, now there are large portions of GRPs coming in the evening, afternoons and last at night also. The audience has got spread across the channel to consume music.

Has there been any change to your programming?

Being a music channel where the core audience is the youth, we keep reinventing our playlists and curating our music often. As I said, with the current situation and current sentiments, we have toned down the music to match the mood mapping of the audience right now. And we have gotten fantastic reviews on that, and because of that, certain time spends have gone up in certain time bands. However, I think the entire genre has grown 6-10% in viewership.

How have music apps impacted your business?

About 5-10 years ago, music television as a genre was treated as a frequency network, but with overall TV penetration and youth population growing and with multiple music tastes spreading across the society, today music as a genre is treated as a proper reach channel because we deliver reach. Overall music as a genre reaches almost 300 million households. Whether it's streaming, OTT or any other form of music, it pushes the overall space and consumption of music in India and this has helped us. The general tendency in India is that until you don't see Salman Khan dancing, you'll not feel the song, so TV as a medium delivers that. Overall when TV penetration has grown considerably in India music was one of the first genres which had penetrated well. And to a large extent, a lot of credit goes to 9X Network because we have penetrated across the urban and rural markets in the country. We were very clear that we had to be across all touchpoints. So maybe 10 years ago marketers treated us as frequency channels, but today marketers and brand heads treat us like proper reach channels because this channel, medium or genre delivers substantial reach which is very important. So, the overall genre has grown and streaming companies and OTTs have helped to populate the concept of music.

Eventually, whether it's a TV channel or streaming, or news channel or a music channel, you deliver the audience. Brands buy audiences. When brands do their marketing plans, they buy audiences. If you deliver a substantial reach audience, you are in the game.

Which are the brands still advertising on your channel right now?

As I said, overall TV consumption has grown between 46-48%, but unfortunately, AdEx has de-grown in terms of volume roughly by 28%, but when it comes to value, it will further de-grow. Because of this overall global scenario and pandemic, the situation is not so great in terms of brands investing right now. So right now there are not more than 700-800 brands which are advertising right now. Because of the crisis, the economy and problems in the supply chain, the majority of brands have restrained from advertising at this time. Ideally, if you ask me since viewership is huge, consumption patterns are high right now and time spent has gone up for TV, this should've been the right time for brands to advertise. But I am hopeful that we will see some improvement in the coming days or months. But yes, there has been a major problem in the last month or so.

This year has been a very difficult year for the TV industry with NTO 2.0 and now COVID-19. What is the status of NTO 2.0 right now?

Last year FTA regime came in and that disrupted the whole ecosystem for a month or two. The NTO 1.0 came in and when there was a transition happening, it disrupted the complete industry for 1-2 months. Then there was an economic slowdown in the country and with GST and demonetisation, the last 3-4 years has been turmoil. But this lockdown has been the worst.

Giving the current situation, do you think TRAI should consider putting NTO 2.0 on hold until broadcasters recover from this crisis?

It should be because there is no logic behind enforcing it at this point in time. We have to come out of this and I think this situation will take 3-4 months to become normalised, I don't see growth in all of that. I don't think we need a disruption on top of another disruption. My assumption is that it will take a backseat for some time because as an industry we are just putting 'nuts and bolts' in place first. It's been almost 45 days that we've been under lockdown. We were just coming out of the slowdown and we barely managed last year, and we were planning for this year and as an industry, we made projections for this year. Then within a month, everything changed and all our projections and business plans went for a toss.

This pandemic started in around December and by the first week or mid-March it had hit close to 90-100 countries, even by the end of March, we never predicted that it will be so bad and at least the next 3-6 months will be a washout. So as an industry, whether from a broadcaster, agency or data perspective, the biggest learning for us is that we need to see a future, we need to predict it well, the world is very small, so if something happens in say California, it'll affect India also. So I think as an industry we need to make our data analytics foolproof, we need to see a future and predict it correctly.

Despite having international networks and offices, we weren't able to collate that something this big will hit us. I think one learning from this is, we should be able to see the future and how we predict and reframe our businesses going forward.

How are you keeping yourself and your team motivated at this time?

When this lockdown started, for about one week, I think everyone was in shock. I have never seen a situation like this, I have seen multiple recessions and economic slowdowns. We've built 9X Media during the 2008-2009 recession, so it's not that companies or brands cannot be built during a recession. But some people say this is as big as WW1 and WW2 combined, as the effect is so great. It was the first time I've heard the term 'lockdown'. But then we need to pick up the pieces and understand and see the future and lead your team. At this time courage is very important to stand in the midst of this crisis. Our industry if a people-driven industry, people is a huge capital for us. So we not only motivate them, I communicate with them and ensure that each member of our team is mentally strong because it is easy to get disoriented during this crisis. But I tell my team that yes, there is a setback and the situation on the ground is bad but we will come out of it. It's just a matter of 2-4 months, we need to patient and courageous.

Communication with your team is very important; you have to be transparent and on the same page. You also have to put things into perspective and show them the future and hopefully, nothing else goes wrong and things will look up. We're a small team and we work as a family. And at this time you need to show a lot of compassion and affection just like you show it to family. The rest of the things will fall into place. I think as an industry we will be back in a bigger and more substantial way.

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