With ad inventories filling up fast, is TV adex inching closer to 2019 levels?

Broadcasters believe that an encouraging festive season may be in the offing after August 2021 recorded the highest ad volumes on TV since the second lockdown in April 2021

e4m by Sonam Saini
Updated: Sep 30, 2021 11:12 AM

Broadcasters’ advertising volume and revenues have been witnessing a steady upward trend this festive season. With Onam and Ganesh Chaturthi done, broadcasters are now shifting their focus on the upcoming Durga Puja, Navratri, Dusshera and Diwali for their ad inventories across genres. 

After the Covid-induced dry spell in the first quarter, TV witnessed an outstanding growth in August, which also set the stage for the festive period.

TAM adex data shows that the overall ad volumes on TV increased by 17% during Aug '21 compared to Aug '20. In fact, all weeks in August 2021 showed higher ad volumes vis-a-vis the corresponding weeks in the year before. Week 2 witnessed the highest growth with 19%. 

TV will see an "outstanding and encouraging" festive period, according to Mahesh Shetty Head-Network Sales at Viacom18. Month-on-month, growth has been steady in volume and revenue. Viacom18 was among the many broadcasters who dropped their pricing last year in the first half during the first wave. 

“We got it up only during the second quarter. The ad volume came back very strongly last year, and around September and October, it was entirely back. However, it is important to note that the pricing too, came back to pre -COVID levels by October. Now, the pricing is already at the pre-COVID level with no drop in this year. Both volume and pricing are going strong because of equally strong demand. Hence, we expect the festive season to fare very well this year," says Shetty.

As per BARC India’s THINK report, August 2021 recorded the highest ad volumes on TV since the second lockdown in April 2021 with 158 mn seconds. The period saw a 17%, 25% and 9% growth compared to May, June and July respectively. 

With 2803 active advertisers and 4415 active brands in the same month, there is a 23% growth over August 2019 and 19% growth over August 2020.

While the festive season usually witnesses the launch of impact properties from GECs, last year, it was the Indian Premier League that marked the period after Covid pushed it out of its April-May window. IPL is set to take place yet again in the festive period this time around. 

It is interesting to note that this year the season will be witnessing another mega sports property- the T20 World Cup in October, along with other impact properties like- ongoing show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), Big Boss season 15, The Big Picture, SaReGaMaPa, India’s Best Dancer and much more. 

Shetty added unlike any other year where Viacom18 usually has one big property, currently, they have multiple impact properties across the network like 'Bigg Boss', ‘Bigg Boss Marathi’, and upcoming 'The Big Picture. “It is going to be a blockbuster period for Viacom18. The base is solid compared to last year,  and we have powerful properties as we enter the festive season,” said Shetty. He predicts that the revenue growth will be strong double-digit this festive period.

The Q CEO Simran Hoon added: “Most GECs are known to launch and raise their tentpole properties and innovations during festive seasons. Given that 2020 was quite muted when it came to festive planning and spends as compared to previous years on account of the pandemic, the industry this year is eagerly awaiting the season as the pandemic eases and public sentiment improves.”  

Hoon places her bets on the push marketing strategy backed with good content. "It will definitely life the sentiments and overall spends by advertisers. We can definitely expect the levels for 2021 to surpass that of 2019 in terms of volumes, innovations, and spends," she says. 

Apart from positive consumer sentiments, the huge advertiser base is also waiting to capitalise on the huge variety of content and tentpole IPs by GECs, Hoon believes."We are also seeing new brands and categories of advertisers turn to TV. Categories like Consumer Durables, Mobile, Auto, Lifestyle, and E-Commerce will drive growth during the pre-Diwali months.” 

In August 2021, the ad volumes of the top 10 advertisers grew by 29% while the next 40 saw 19% growth and the remainder, 22% growth in August 2021, versus the same period for 2019. FMCG continued to dominate with the highest share with 92.9 mn seconds of ad volumes and has grown by 22% over August 2019. With 4.4. mn seconds of Ad Volumes for Corporate and Brand Image, the sector witnessed a staggering growth of 570% over August 2019 where it had recorded 0.7 mn seconds.

Shetty added, “Across the board, we see brands are spending money, matching that with a robust programming line-up. Our inventories are going full despite the pricing. And, as we get into the festive period, the pricing will get stronger, as demand for advertising will still be there. Most of the categories are doing well, including FMCG, auto, and new entrants who are expanding their reach, for instance, gaming, cryptocurrency, and fintech brands. Therefore, not just the traditional advertisers are spending, even newer categories come into the advertising fray.”

According to industry leaders across genres, TV is witnessing high demand from GECs to kids channels. Talking about the latter, Leena Lele Dutta, Business Head, Sony Pictures Networks Kids’ genre shared that April-May-June is usually the peak time for advertising on the kids’ genre but this year as too was a dampener because of the second wave. 

“Advertising started picking up towards the end of June. Meanwhile, the content plan we had for April-May-June was deferred for September-October- November. From a client and brand perspective base, we are likely to have a bumper Diwali this year. Also from an inventory and FCT fill-up,  we are going to knock the ball out of the park this few months.” 

Speaking about the ad rates and revenue level coming back to pre-COVID times, Dutta further, added, “Taarak Mehta Ka Chhota Chashmah has been our impact property. We are using Taarak strategically to increase our ad rates and we are attracting premiums on the show and because of that, we are having a full up in terms of inventory. If compared with the 2019 Diwali period, we are back to normal, in fact doing better than 2019. Despite having two big cricket events, it is a good season for us.”  

Even though the Q3 of 2020 (festive period) too witnessed a recovery in ad volumes but not in pricing. As per the Pitch Madison 2021 report, Q3 saw a quick recovery to almost the same level as 2019 but Q4 saw an astounding increase of 56%, thanks to IPL and the festival period.

An ad sales professional said that the GECs are doing really well, with almost the entire ad inventory getting sold out. “Such is the demand that we are unable to book new orders from clients. We have been told to stop taking new bookings since we will not be able to service it. This is a great time for media platforms since advertiser sentiment is on a high.” 

Says an ad sales executive with a TV broadcasting firm: “Currently, the market is such that advertisers are open to paying top dollars for ad inventory. Even smaller channels of leading broadcasters are getting good rates and are fully sold out. Ad growth will reach the FY20 level or may even surpass it. This is revenge spending. The new-age businesses want immediacy, and they are slush with funds from investors. Both traditional and new-age advertisers are spending big-time on advertising.”

Meanwhile, in August, TV saw over 45,000 exclusive categories, 1,600 advertisers, and 2,600 brands, as per the TAM data. Household UPS and Inverter Batteries topped among the new categories followed by Mouth Wash in Aug '21 compared to Aug '20.  Lux Industries was the top new advertiser followed by Travelxp India.  Dettol (Corporate) topped among the new brands followed by Tata Sky Binge App. 

Learning from last year post-Covid and cricket season, this year brands are now focusing to leverage this festive to the full potential henceforth the channels are already full in terms of inventory starting September, said Linu John, VP, Zenith.

John said, “ The categories driving the growth will be multiple majorly driven by hard goods like automobiles, appliances, and jewellery along with gifting products. Also due to a high impact period with multiple properties cutting across sports and reality shows will have a major impact on the viewership dispersion as well. Since the demand vs supply is in favour of the suppliers this season there is inflation expected in the market. This will lead to a definite increase in the Adex compared to 2020 and bringing it closer to 2019 as well.”

With inputs from Javed Farooqui


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