Rewind 2013: It was a year of loggerheads for the TV industry - Sunil Lulla

The industry was at constant loggerheads, in an economy which de-grew & an industry whose revenue was flat. The big got bigger, while the small got squeezed, observes the MD & CEO, Times Television Network

e4m by Abhinav Trivedi
Updated: Dec 27, 2013 9:57 AM
Rewind 2013: It was a year of loggerheads for the TV industry - Sunil Lulla

The year 2013 has been a very hectic year for the broadcast industry in India. Due to the slowdown in the economy, the balance sheet of public television companies too was affected. In some cases, the flagship channel of the group was the only cash cow for them.

Starting from the 10+2 ad cap issue in April to TAM ratings fiasco in June, to gross Vs Net billings issue to distribution disputes between content aggregators and MSOs – the TV industry battled several issues.

Sunil Lulla, MD & CEO, Times Television Network, who was very vocal against the ad cap issue in an earlier interaction with exchange4media, believes that the “TV industry will lose Rs 300 crore of revenue if the ad cap is implemented”. In conversation with exchange4media, Lulla shares his views on how the television industry fared in the year 2013. Excerpts:

How do you rate the developments in the Indian broadcasting sector in 2013? What does the year signify for the sector – Year of accountability, Year of transparency or Year of disruptive innovation?
'Year of Loggerheads’! The industry faced many conflicts, be it the transition to Net Invoicing, TVTs, struggling with the ad cap, DAS Phase 2, aggressive consultations on ownership, cross media and aggregators. Constant loggerhead, in an economy which de-grew and an industry whose revenue was flat. The big got bigger and stronger and the small got squeezed. The loggerhead got big!

Since your network predominantly belongs to the news sector, which is likely to be affected most from the ad cap, what is your view on the present status of ad cap?
The matter is in court and our view is well known.

Do you think BARC is likely to see the light of day in 2014?  Is your view on the contemporary rating system still same: “Not realistic”?
Most certainly it will roll out in 2014. One of the brightest spots of 2013 was the significant traction gained on BARC. It will augur well for broadcast and advertisers.

You recently spoke that “television is treated as a commodity and conversations with the end consumer have gone down”. As head of a network, how would you approach the rebalancing act?
Times Television Network enhanced its platform for media partnership, IP development and co-created content with a wide range of customers. The value of business has more than doubled, and for many clients, this is now part of their agenda to communicate with their consumers.

Post digitisation, the number of petitions in TDSAT and High Court involving broadcasters, MSOs, DTH, and LCOs has increased. Do you think distribution issues are likely to increase as a lot of vested interests are at stake on the ground?
The biggest revenue piece in television is the value the subscriber pays. The current value chain is distorted as most of the monetised value lies with LCOs/ MSOs/ DTH platforms. In addition, broadcasters pay significant carriage. The purpose of DAS is to unlock this value and create a balanced, fair and transparent process. The change will not happen overnight. But it will. Everyone is trying to protect their turf. We need to respect the consumer’s interest and have them pay, for only what they may want to pay for. Change will cause disruption. No pain, no gain!

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