News channels look at better topline in Q2 with revived ad deals

Premium categories or high spenders on TV & news channels - durables, automobiles, FMCG and pharma - have made a noticeable comeback, say experts

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Aug 3, 2020 8:14 AM

The lockdown saw unprecedented growth in news viewership but the ratings didn’t really reflect on ad sales. Low business sentiments brought a lull in the news business too, with advertisers backing out or asking for deep discounts. However, now in some good news advertisers are back on TV and news channels are looking at a better second quarter as they record ad sales close to pre-COVID times.

Brands are back to tell their stories cashing in on the popularity of news bulletins and prime time shows.

“Brands had to rejig the messaging or product offering to be in sync with the prevailing scenario as well as face the total lockdown that the country was in. After an initial slowdown, we have seen a quick uptick in ad volumes, as shown by industry AdEx data. We quickly bounced back to near pre-COVID levels and are now seeing monthly growth over even the last year’s business,” said Karan Abhishek Singh, CEO - Regional News, News18 Network.

As per the latest TAM AdEx numbers, a little over 2,300 advertisers and 3,700 plus brands have come on board to advertise on TV between June and July this year. Data also says there were 56,000+ hours of advertising volumes on TV in the same period. Advertisement volumes have been growing month on month too with growth in FCT (free commercial time). As it turns out average ad volumes per day in July 2020 grew by 9% compared to June 2020.

While ad volumes have been on a clear growth trajectory, experts say the industry is still a while away from bouncing back to pre-COVID ad rates. However, discounts are only temporary and no abnormal discounting has been seen as most players in the news business played on the viewership factor. Viewership for some news channels grew by over 200% during the lockdown and basis that news channels are not looking at offering any special discounts to advertisers who decide to come on board.

Sharing more on ratings and ad rates was Mona Jain, Chief Revenue Officer at ABP News Network: “Ratings are the true currency of television news and their significance cannot be understated. Our regional channel, ABP Ananda, was the No.1 channel in the entire West Bengal TV Universe in terms of reach, for 13 consecutive weeks. (Source: BARC, TG - NCCS 2+, Mkt- WB, Wk 12-24’2020, reach in crore.) It has not only surpassed GECs, but all channels available in West Bengal. This kind of superior quality stands out when advertisers are looking to invest fully. Keeping this in mind, we will not be reducing our ad rates, as our channels provide unmatched brand building capabilities.”

Singh thinks likewise. According to him, advertisers are already getting a good deal even with regular ad rates. “They got inventory at the same rates and thus hugely benefitted by reaching hitherto unforeseen viewers on News at the same cost. Consumers were at home and spending significantly more time in front of their TV sets. High interest news events, notably the PM’s speech and the FM’s economic package ensured high viewership periods. As retail starts opening up more and consumption improves, I believe we are set to see a phase where the demand will significantly outdo the supply of inventory with a cascading positive impact on pricing,” he said.

Brands, on the other hand, are reviewing their current media strategy and making adjustments to media plans. “The latest strategy is backed by numbers that are in favor of Digital and TV, specifically to the news genre on TV. Therefore, yes, we are seeing advertisers going for the buck for their money either by hard pressing TV news channels or by optimising media plan by including digital media for desired results,” said Jitin Negi, Senior Director, Business, Carat India.

Premium categories or high spenders on television (particularly news channels) such as durables, automobiles, FMCG, and pharma have made a noticeable comeback, said experts.

With the festive season just around the quarter most players are expecting to close a gainful second quarter. “With the festive season starting soon, we are expecting 25-30% upsurge in August and a further surge in September. The upcoming IPL will further boost advertisers’ sentiment across channels, to drive more visibility and engagement for their brand,” said Gaurav Dhawan, EVP – Revenue, Times Network.

According to Dhawan, just like brands, news channels are also rising to the occasion and innovating with their content to keep the viewers hooked.

“Our news brands are market leaders in the category leading with innovative and comprehensive content. Additionally, our marquee properties such as Fighting Fear With Facts, Times Fact India Outbreak Report, India Stands for Humane Policing, Leaders of Tomorrow, have resulted in increased viewership with new brands sampling the channels. Presenting distinctive integrated solutions with the combination of TV and digital, we have been able to drive high brand visibility, offering advertisers more value in return for investments with us,” he said.

The biggest fear for the genre has been around sustaining viewership numbers that touched record highs during the lockdown days.  Was the growth temporary? Not so much, say broadcasters. Credible content will rule the day and keep the viewers from switching off from news thereby keeping the interest of advertisers in the genre intact.  

“This quarter, we are expecting a resurgence of advertisements on all our news channels. Even as some semblance of normalcy returns, the news genre will not see a dull day. Viewership will continue to mount as long as incertitude remains. Viewers are still heavily reliant on news channels to know about the aftermath of the pandemic, the progress on the vaccine, and other socio-political issues of the country. So eyeballs are promised – as long as we focus on delivering high quality content,” Jain assured.

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