With the big four of FTA getting more eyeballs, are advertisers too making a comeback?

Industry experts say the ad rates these channels are commanding are lower than the period before the pull-out but there is likely to be a competitive price hike in 4 to 6 weeks

e4m by Sonam Saini
Updated: Jul 9, 2020 9:56 AM

It has been just about a month that Free To Air (FTA) channels of some major networks made a comeback to the DD Free Dish platform and the industry is already talking about how these have been a big draw for advertisers lately.  

According to data from the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), Star India’s FTA general entertainment channel, Star Utsav, has emerged as the most watched channel across genres and platforms in Week 25 and has garnered over one billion impressions (1022807 (000s) impressions).

The channels who came back on Free Dish on June 3 after winning MPEG-2 slot bids include Zee Anmol, Sony Pal, Star Utsav and Colors Rishtey. They had pulled out of the platform last year post the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) coming up with a new tariff regime.

According to media experts, along with the viewership these channels are also witnessing a jump in ad inventory. However, the rates these channels are commanding have been reported to be lower than the period before the pull out. There is expectation that the rates will increase once the viewership stabilizes after 4 to 6 weeks.

To share further insights, Ashish Sehgal, Chief Growth Officer, Advertisement Revenue, ZEE Entertainment Enterprises Ltd said, “There is a resurgence, people are coming back to the FTA business. It's not that these brands were not buying these channels earlier, they were buying whichever channel was available in the FTA space. Now with the four channels coming back from four big broadcasters and knowing their success earlier, they have started showing interest to come back on these channels.”

He further explained, “In the last three weeks all these four channels have grown in terms of GRPs dramatically. The advertisers are familiar with their success, hence they are advertising.”

According to Mahesh Shetty, Head, Network Sales, Viacom18, FMCG brands have been showing good interest in advertising on the FTA channels. “After the recent move, both our channels, Colors Rishtey and Rishtey Cineplex, have had a great start on the FTA platform and have are being well received by the advertisers. Most of the large FMCG brands across categories — personal care, home care, snacks and beverages — have come on board. As we strengthen our growth further, we are hopeful that the onboarding of brands will increase in the coming months.”

Pawan Jailkhani, Chief Revenue Officer of 9X Media, also explained the reason why FTA continues to be a big draw for advertisers. “For every advertiser FTA is an important market. We saw GECs and movie channels coming in, which will definitely help the overall growth of the FTA space and it now makes it more lucrative for advertisers to come and spend.”

On how FTA channels are integral to media planning options, Jailkhani further said, “The whole proposition has become very interesting now, the way it used to be a year back. It has created a buzz within the advertising community as they have got a strong media planning option. The music genre was already there and now with GECs and Movies coming back it has become a lucrative package for advertisers to spend on. Also, once the market opens up further, the FTA space will grow more in terms of advertising.”

Another media expert, Kaushik Chakraborty, Senior Vice President (West), Vizeum India, highlighted that the return of channels like Sony Pal, Rishtey Cineplex, Star Utsav, and Zee Anmol on DD Free Dish have been indeed encouraging for the FTA genre. “In the prevailing situation, pay channel subscription has taken a hit, particularly in the rural pockets of India. These channels now with differential content will attract new audiences to this genre and drive significant growth in viewership,” said Chakraborty.

In terms of pricing too, this genre is CPRP-driven, said Chakraborty, explaining that with the increase in viewership and demand from advertisers, we can expect a competitive price hike in the near future.

Stating similar thoughts, Sehgal said, “Pricing differs for each channel. When the channels were launched in June, the new pricing came with no discount. Currently, the deals are happening on the introductory offer and all the deals are being only for a month. Long term pricing will start once we will see 4-6 weeks data, once ratings start to stabilize we will bring pricing back on FTA and definitely the pricing will be parallel to as it was before the withdrawal of the channels.”

A look at the TAM AdEx data shows that in the FTA space, the count of categories in June stands higher compared to the average count of categories in the March to May 2020 period for all the 3 FTA channels - Sony Pal, Star Utsav and Zee Anmol.

According to TAM data, Reckitt Benckiser (India), Hindustan Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Wipro, ITC, Marico, Ponds India and The Himalayan Drug Co are among the common advertisers spending on these channels. For instance, while Reckitt Benckiser (India) is the biggest advertiser on Sony Pal with a 22% share, Hindustan Unilever has registered a 40% ad volume share with Zee Anmol. 

Meanwhile, the count of advertisers for June too was more compared to the average count of advertisers in March-May for Sony Pal and Star Utsav. 

The overall TV advertising declined by 63% in the month of April, by 50% in May and in June the drop stands at 40-45%, shared Karan Taurani, VP- Research, Elara Capital. “Pricing is coming down further but the inventory is growing,” he added.

“FTA has always been strong, it was only about capability. Big broadcasters coming back on DD Free Dish, given the kind of bundle offering they have, advertisers they have, capability-wise it should take big pick up from here on,” Taurani asserted.

He cited two more reasons why advertisers were increasingly looking at TV as a medium now. “Firstly, print circulation has taken a massive hit and a lot of advertisers are moving from print to TV. Secondly, Digital is also having its own set of challenges. For instance, global brands have stopped advertising on social media platforms like Facebook. TikTok too that had a good amount of digital advertisers has moved away.”

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