Mixed Media: Road to nowhere with the regulator in reverse gear

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India appears to have been influenced by lobbyists who do not wish to see foreign equity revving up competition in FM radio and news TV, writes Pradyuman Maheshwari.

e4m by Pradyuman Maheshwari
Published: Jul 6, 2010 9:13 AM  | 3 min read
Mixed Media: Road to nowhere with the regulator in reverse gear

India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting doesn’t formulate all the rules by itself. When there are sensitive issues at play, it leans on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), a body set up to “create and nurture conditions for growth of telecommunications in the country”.

The TRAI’s objective is to make India “play a leading role in the emerging global information society” and hence, it made awful sense to include telecom and information and broadcasting under one regulator. But I find that the organisation that formulated pathbreaking policies for the telecom sector in India has regrettably played into the hands of lobbies and advised regressive policies for the broadcast sector.

While one can’t be sure if the proposed Broadcast Authority of India would serve as a better regulator, but it’s critical for any authority to take a longer term, progressive view of the information economy rather than advise shortsighted measures that help a few.

We all know there are several vested interests at play. Large media conglomerates who feel threatened by organisations with greater access to foreign funds are the biggest lobbyists. They are aided by smaller setups, which fear being wiped out if the big, international players enter the fray.

The result: outlandish reasons given for stalling greater foreign capital in news television and radio. Radio, it is argued, is as sensitive as news and also doesn’t require much monies.

Well, the same argument would then be applicable for non-news television channels too, for, even though the investments are large, it’s not that it’s out of the reach of desi business biggies. Bottomline: if a Star Plus can have 100 per cent foreign equity, why can’t FM networks such as Radio One or Big 92.7, which do not air current affairs, be allowed the same.

There are larger ills afflicting the trade and have been crying for the attention of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The abysmally high carriage fees that broadcasters are forced to cough up so that they are watched by all. Cross-ownership of media is another and is seen to be leading to monopolistic practices. My other peeve: the need to closely monitor editorial practices of media organisations and revoke benefits accorded to players in incorrect acts.

Save a few large players, most in the FM radio sector are crying for the dice not to be so heavily loaded against them. Part of the problem is that its lobbyists aren’t strong enough as those in print and television. Or even if they are, it appears they’d rather lock horns with the government over bigger battles. News on FM has thus been a casualty and now the infusion of foreign equity. Sigh.

What next? It’s not mandatory for the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to accept and follow any of the TRAI’s advisories. However, since the Minister and bureaucrats are answerable to elected representatives, the likelihood of the Government rejecting the recommendations is very low. It can at most throw back the recommendations and ask the regulator to relook at its suggestions.

Moreover, the Manmohan Singh-led UPA Government is already facing much heat due to rising prices and would not like to upset the big boys in the media at this stage. So don’t expect too much action on this front for now.

The lobbyists seemed to have done their job well for now and I’m sure they will continue to do so until governments don’t take the bold measures.

(The views expressed here are personal. Post your comments below or reach the writer via mail at pradyumanm@exchange4media.com or via Twitter at @pmahesh.)

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e4m-DNPA Future of Digital Media Conference & Awards today

The day-long conference will bring together the best minds from across the world to explore the future of digital news media and the various challenges it faces

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 20, 2023 8:43 AM   |   2 min read

dnpa

The Digital News Publishers Association of India (DNPA) in association with exchange4media Group is organising its first annual conclave in India today, January 20, at Hyatt Regency, Bhikaji Cama Place, New Delhi. The day-long conference will bring together the best minds from across the world to explore the future of digital news media and the various challenges it faces. The conclave is a platform for cross-pollinating ideas and thoughts and sharing the latest technological developments in digital media. Industry heads and experts will also discuss regulatory or policy challenges and other issues that the media has been facing.

The speakers include international and Indian thought leaders from the fields of digital publishing, media regulation, competition law, technology and governance. Through various keynote sessions, panel discussions and expert presentations, the event will decode the issues involved in creating an ideal relationship between news publishers and Big Tech platforms in rebuilding the business of journalism.

DNPA represents the digital arms of the country's top media companies working in the areas of print and television. The chief guest of the event will be Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology and Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. Some of the eminent speakers include Mr Paul Fletcher, Member of Parliament, Australia Former Minister of Communications, Australia, Mr Pierre Petillault, Managing Director, Alliance de la presse d'information générale (APIG), Mr Owen Meredith, Chief Executive Officer, News Media Association, Ms Apurva Chandra, Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, Dr Pavan Duggal, Chairman, International Commission on Cyber Security Law among others.

Later in the day, the e4m-DNPA Digital Impact Awards ceremony will be held where the winners will be honoured for their cutting-edge digital initiatives that deliver on-demand governance and services to citizens in various fields. The awards celebrate the digital technology innovations that have improved citizens’ lives and promoted nation-building.

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There will be a lot of acceleration between sales, marketing & IT: Sir Martin Sorrell

Sorrell was speaking to Rahul Kanwal, News Director, India Today, and Aajtak, India Today Group at the World Economic Forum in Davos

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 17, 2023 4:32 PM   |   3 min read

martin sorrell

In a conversation with Rahul Kanwal, News Director, India Today, and Aajtak, India Today Group at the World Economic Forum in Davos,  Sir Martin Sorrell, the Founder and Executive Chairman of S4 Capital plc, weighed on a variety of topics. 

The longest-serving chief executive of any FTSE 100 company shared his thoughts on advertising and marketing trends, the future of print and TV in the age of digital, Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover and his vision for India. 

On quizzed about the ad trends that he will keep a close eye on this year, Sorrell had this to say: “Two things – One is moving down the funnel as we call it to activation and performance. So there will be an emphasis on volume, revenue growth, ROI, media mix modelling, and digital spend which is easier to measure.”

The second thing he will keep an eye out for is digital transformation. “Because margins are going to be under pressure. Most analysts are forecasting that earnings will be down this year. There will be a correction on earnings and there will be pressure on margins.”

He noted that there will be a lot of acceleration between three functions: sales, marketing and IT. “They’re coming together and they have to come together to make a case to procurement and finance – which have more power inside corporations.”

Sorrell boils it down to two crucial goals: “Top line growth and getting the cost down.”

Kanwal also asked Sorrell about his outlook for traditional media, but the advertising wizard said that his forecast is “pretty gloomy.”

By 2025, he believes that the ratio of advertising earnings to GDP (as per the US) will be around 1.5% and a large chunk of the same will come from digital media. 

He added that the grip of traditional media on younger viewers is loosening and clients have been shifting their ads to platforms that are accessed more by the young. 

“So the clients are saying ‘why am I spending an inordinate amount of money on classical TV or analogue TV and repeating the problem?’ Why don’t I cap it and move money to digital?’” he added. “Digital as a medium is easier to monitor, measure and perfect. Ultimately, everything will be digital in some way, shape or form.”

Kanwal also quizzed him about the growing relevance of AI in marketing. “Do you think that in the way marketing is evolving, that ultimate distribution comes down to artificial intelligence?”

Sorrell responded by saying that it will take some time. He also explained the distinction between artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial general intelligence (AGI), stating that AI is more mechanical and AGI is more sophisticated. 

He also agreed with Kanwal saying that one day a programme like ChatGPT can do the media planning and it would be very effective. 

Sorrell also weighed in on tech-dominated ad marketplaces that are calling the shots in advertising in recent years, especially in the age of Google and Meta and Twitter.

He also noted that Elon Musk should have stuck with a 10 per cent shareholding at Twitter, “because the upside is very little for him,” while commenting on the Tesla CEO’s struggle with advertisers. Sorrell also said that he’s “quite bullish” on India. “Two reasons, Modi has been an inspiring leader and has made brand India a greater force.”

The other reason for Sorrell’s optimism is concern about security around Taiwan and China. “India naturally benefits from this equation. It becomes the primary beneficiary of the redistribution of the supply chain.”

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Chrome Pictures expands team of directors, producers

The production house has so far produced over 5,000 ad films

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 16, 2023 3:15 PM   |   2 min read

Chrome

Ad production house Chrome Pictures is expanding its team of directors and producers. After producing over 5,000 ad films and carving a niche in the advertising world in their 19-year journey, Chrome Pictures is all set to include a few new names to their list of directors.

The list begins with “Secret Superstar” and “Laal Singh Chaddha” fame director, Advait Chandan. The list also goes on to name Debanjolie Bhattacharjee, Aman Rai and Roopali Singhal as in-house talent, who has grown into becoming a known TV Commercial Director.

Since the success of Chrome Pictures’ feature film debut, the National-Award winning film “Badhaai Ho”, directed by Amit Sharma and his Ajay Devgn-starrer “Maidaan”, they have branched out to avenues such as production of films, OTT and more.

Their upcoming feature film production “Trial Period”, directed by Aleya Sen is set to be released in 2023. To take the new avenues ahead, Prachi Thadhani joined the team as Creative Producer, who has a career spanning over a decade and half in the Indian and International entertainment industry.

Chrome Pictures is all set to take on a much larger team of producers for meeting the high demands of the ever-growing advertising sector, along with their success with its digital wing Minikin DGWorks. Having led the TVC department for 10+ years, Napolean Daniel Amanna and Abhishek Notani are now joined by Kush Malhotra and Rajat Gulati. With more than 14 years of experience, Rajat was the Vice President, Account Management at McCann, Delhi. His prior experience also includes account management positions at agencies such as Leo Burnett and Ogilvy.

Some of the recent ad films made by Chrome Pictures are for brands like Truecaller, Netflix Cherrapunji wali Diwali, ‘Titan Raga- #BoldlyBeautiful’ starring Alia Bhatt, ‘Vi’, ‘Epigamia’ - Want to hear something new?, ‘MakeMyTrip’ starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, ‘Catch Masale’ starring Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar, ‘Fogg’ TVC, ‘Urban Company’ & ‘Uber’.

Speaking about their roadmap, Hemant Bhandari, Co-Founder, Producer & Director- Chrome Pictures, says, "Chrome Pictures felt the need to expand our team to accommodate the high demand that we are facing. We felt the need to introduce these individuals who will bring a fresh outlook and help achieve larger goals for Chrome Pictures. Change is constant, thus the need to explore newer ways to connect with the audiences is a must.”

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Streaming a big hit in 2022 despite cinemas making a comeback

According to Data.ai’s ‘State of Mobile Report’, riding high on cricket, Hotstar attracted the most active and engaging users in India in the past year

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 16, 2023 8:17 AM   |   2 min read

OTT

Leading streaming apps continued to dominate Indian consumers' attention in 2022 despite the reopening of cinema halls, businesses and workplaces. Mobile video remains a key trend to watch for marketers, suggests Data.ai’s “State of mobile report”. 

The report further says homegrown OTT platforms like Hotstar, SonyLiv and Zee5 have seen tremendous growth in 2022 over 2021 in terms of downloads, active users and user monetisation. 

The 91-page report is the annual overview of app performance trends, highlighting all the key developments in 2022.

While globally spending on mobile has slowed down, in India it is still growing. Moreover, the time spent on mobile phones in India has gone up to 4.9 hrs in 2022, from 4.5 hrs and 4.7 hours a day in 2020 and 2021, respectively. 

As per the report, India is the second largest mobile spending market ($28 billion) in the world after China ($111 billion) and the US ($20 billion). 

OTT platform

Avg Active Users/month 2022

 

In million (increase over 2021)

Avg Active Time/month 

 

2022

Hotstar

133  (+15m)

5:57 hrs

Sonyliv

25.8  (+4m)

2:14 hrs

Zee5

37.4  (+5m)

2:00 hrs

Netflix

50.3  (+3m)

4:55 hrs

Prime Video

57.4  (+2m)

2:24 hrs

Jio Cinema

15.6  (+5)

1:38 hrs

MX Player

176  (+2 m)

6:00 hrs

ALTBalaji

2.62  (-1m)

0:34 hrs

(Source: Data.ai State of mobile report 2023)

Coverage of major sporting events can be a highly effective way to add new users and keep them engaged on popular streaming services, the report said. 

Hotstar added close to 99 million downloads in 2022 with two peaks - in September’s first week and October last week - thanks to the live streaming of two cricket tournaments - Asia Cup and ICC Men’s World Cup. 

The OTT platform of Disney star group, which has been the streaming partner of the Indian Premier League, (IPL) tops the chart in terms of active users as well. The service added 15 million new active users taking its total active user count to 133 million. They spent close to six hours every month watching the content on the platform. 

MX Player, the Times Network’s platform, has been the most downloaded OTT app in India and the third most downloaded app worldwide across 2022. 

The Indian OTT audience universe stands at 424 million people, according to The Ormax OTT Audience Sizing Report 2022. Of these, 119 million are active paid OTT subscriptions in India.

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Prashant Singh of Zee Business Digital joins ET Now Digital as Sr. Editor

Singh has over 16 years of experience across Print, Electronic and Digital media.

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 8, 2023 8:04 PM   |   1 min read

Prashant Singh

Prashant Singh former Deputy Editor Zee Business Digital has joined ET Now Digital as Sr. Editor.

Singh has over 16 years of experience across Print, Electronic and Digital media. He has been part of leading media houses like Financial Express, News18.com, Dainik Jagran, DD News in the past. 

Prior to joining ET Now, Singh was associated with Zee Business Digital for close to four years. He has also worked at Financial Express Digital as Assistant Editor for almost two years and Zee Media as Correspondent and News18.com as Chief Sub Editor apart from other leading media houses.

Singh hold post graduation in Journalism from Punjab Technical University and MBA from IMT Ghaziabad.

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Muted Q3FY23 for M&E due to ecomm companies slashing spends, inflation: Elara Capital

According to analysis by Karan Taurani, exhibitors saw improved performance thanks to movies like Avatar-The way of water, Drishyam 2, Kantara and Vikram Vedha

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 5, 2023 4:13 PM   |   4 min read

elara

"TV was the first traditional medium to report higher advertising revenue vs pre COVID levels last year (grew 7%-8% vs pre COVID levels)," said Karan Taurani, Senior Vice President - Research Analyst (Media, Consumer Discretionary & Internet)Elara Capital. Taurani shared his predictions for the M&E sector, noting that Q3FY23 has been relatively muted with revenues declining 5%-6%YoY vs pre COVID levels, despite positive impact of festive, primarily due to 1) lower spends by new age/e-commerce companies (cut ad. budgets by 30%-40%YoY) and 2) muted growth in FMCG vertical due to RM inflationary pressures YoY. Here are the rest of his predictions. 

Expect ad revenue growth of 8.5%/ 9%/12.4% for Zee/Sun/TV today QoQ respectively led by festive season but a decline of 12.8%/1%/8% YoY due to higher base (TV medium surpassed pre-COVID levels last year). Expect subscription revenue to remain flat for Zee and a growth of 6% QoQ for Sun; this is primarily on the back of uncertainty of NTO implementation; we expect subscription revenue to grow 8%-10% over the near term helped by price hikes, as NTO 3.0 will be implemented by Feb’23.

For SUNTV, the absence of IPL and other operating revenue (movie segment revenue - no major releases this quarter) will lead to total revenue of Rs 8,563mn – decline of 17.1% YoY and up 5.1% vs pre Covid levels of FY20. Z is expected to report flat revenue growth YoY, but up 4%/3%, QoQ/ pre covid, whereas TVT’s revenue is expected to decline of 4% YoY, due to high base in Q3FY22, although up 17%/11.5%, QoQ/pre covid respectively, driven by festive quarter.

Expect EBITDA margin to grow 80bps/down 90bps/ up 350bps QoQ, helped by higher ad spends; however, margins are estimated to decline 722bps/487bps/1720 bps YoY for Z/SUNTV/TVT respectively, due to 1) pressure on content costs (TV and digital) and 2) lower ad. spends. Expect PAT to decline 53%/ 8%/ 51% YoY and grow 25%/5%/ 54% sequentially (decline 59%/up 13%/down 19% vs pre Covid levels) for Z/SUNTV/TVT respectively.

Exhibitors - Better performance QoQ on a low base; remains lower vs pre COVID

Exhibitors are expected to perform better sequentially led by strong performance of movies like Avatar-The way of water, Drishyam 2, Kantara & Vikram Vedha, while other big budget movies like Cirkus, Ram Setu, Thank God, Bhediya have performed much below expectations. The festive season led to healthy performance in Q3FY23 sequentially, however growth was subdued when compared to Q1FY23.

Box Office revenue is expected to post an 85% recovery to pre-covid level in Q3FY23. Expect PVR & INOL box office revenues to grow 18% each sequentially but decline 15% each vs pre Covid levels (Q3FY20), 1) multiple large budget Hindi films report a below par performance and 2) small/medium budget films continue to struggle. Expect other metrics like ATP to grow 19%/12% vs pre-covid (growth of 12%/6.5% QoQ) for PVR/INOL helped premium content like Avatar, while Footfalls for PVR/Inox are expected to decline 34%/27% when compared to pre-covid levels as Hindi content fails to perform on a consistent basis. SPH is expected to grow in the range of 2-3% sequentially for both PVRL & INOL helped by premium content (Avatar).  Ad revenue recovery to be delayed in line with expectation and may only come back to pre-covid levels in FY24; expect ad revenue to recover towards 60% vs pre pandemic in Q3, despite festive season, primarily due to 1) muted performance of Hindi content which drives a large portion of ad.spends and 2) challenged macro environment, wherein ad. spends across verticals are under pressure. We estimate an EBITDA margin of 30%/32% for PVRL/INOL (incl INDAS), which is 360bps/90bps lower vs pre COVID levels; metrics like ATP/SPH have been able to offset some negative impact of lower footfalls and helped support profitability.

Radio - Still struggling to reach pre pandemic levels

Radio medium has been growing slowly compared to other forms of media while there has been a substantial shift of consumers towards digital. Expect ENIL/MBL to report revenue growth/decline of 14%/7% YoY (down of 40%/20.4% vs Q3FY20 – pre pandemic levels) respectively; in terms of ENIL, expect non-radio segment to recover at around 83% (vs pre pandemic levels), helped by normalisation of events/activations/concerts; Believe ENIL’s non radio business will continue to report traction over near term. Expect ENIL/MBL to report an EBITDA Margin of 20.6%/12% in Q3FY23.

 

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Over 18,000 employees to be laid off: Amazon

CEO Andy Jassy cited uncertain economic conditions and rapid hiring in an email to staffers

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 5, 2023 11:27 AM   |   1 min read

Amazon

Amazon has announced that it will be laying off over 18,000 employees. The exercise will start from January 18, the ecommerce giant's CEO Andy Jassy said in an email sent to the staff, media reports stated.

He cited uncertain economic conditions and rapid hiring as reasons for the move.

As per Jassy, Amazon Stores and PXT organisations will bear the major impact of the layoffs.

Late November, Amazon India informed the labour ministry that it has not fired any employee but relieved those who opted for the separation programme and accepted a severance package.

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