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Has digital hit growth of English entertainment genre?

21-May-2018
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Has digital hit growth of English entertainment genre?

The growing popularity of digital platforms coupled with recent factors such as BARC’s revision of rural weightage and demonetization seems to have hit the English entertainment genre.

According to FICCI EY Media and Entertainment report 2018, 2017 saw the full impact of BARC’s enhanced rural panel weightage, with genres like infotainment, English news and English entertainment seeing a reduction in their viewership.

There are more than 20 channels in the English entertainment genre in India. The category is currently worth Rs 600-700 crores in terms of ad spends and is expected to grow close to 10-11 per cent in 2018-19, according to industry experts. But players like Netflix, Hotstar and Amazon Prime, with their eye-catching offerings, have impacted the viewership of TV channels.

The top 10 channel genres account for 47 per cent of the total ad volumes. Of these, 30 per cent of all ad volumes were from Hindi channels, while the remaining 17 per cent were from Tamil, Telugu and Bangla. Hindi Movies as a genre had the maximum advertisements.

Pawan Jailkhani, Chief Revenue Officer, 9X Media, believes that in last two years, demonetization and GST have shaken the industry. “There was a sharp decline in overall advertising revenue from November 2016. When this decline happened, niche channels faced the cut first. The English genre is very niche; whether it's movie, GECs or music channels. This declined happened 2016 onwards because of the environment. The audience must have moved as there are so many options. But this is nothing new. We have been seeing this in the television sector for over 10 year. But I strongly believe the English channels will make a comeback and show a higher growth.”

A senior media planner, on the condition of anonymity, said, “Lot of FMCG players have reduced their presence on English channels. English GEC viewership has fallen but English movies viewership has gone up. In English movies category, there has been a slight growth of 5-10 per cent on the number of clients.”

The EEG (English Entertainment Genre), specifically the English GECs, have witnessed relatively slower growth compared to overall TV growth.

Vineet Sodhani, CEO, Spatial Access, said, “English GECs have lost interest of the ardent upmarket followers of English content as they can now watch whatever whenever they want because all shows are available on OTT platforms.”

He added, “Many clients are choosing between English on TV and Digital as there is a huge audience overlap.”

Localised and fresh content

The English entertainment genre needs to improve its content. The content that the channels air is mostly available on their OTT platforms or on the illegal website. Jailkhani believes that to compete with digital players and others, broadcasters needs to be more innovative.

“They should create fresh and localised content. They have outsourced content and they can always create localised content,” he said.
Tushar Shah, EVP and Business Head, English Cluster, SPN asserted, “A strong brand, a relevant platform and engaging content aided by a great viewing experience are the key growth drivers.”

The overall English genre

Vivek Srivastava, EVP & Head, Entertainment Cluster – Times Network, said, “English movies were considered niche viewing till about a few years ago, but not anymore. English viewing, especially movies, account for mainstream viewing and conversations. This is visible in theatrical performance where Hollywood is giving tough competition and making as much money as Hindi and other languages. Also, earlier the viewing was largely concentrated in metro markets but in the last few years significant growth is coming from Tier 2&3 towns.”

Shah shared, “The genre has grown over the years as the consumption of English content has gone up. We are the second largest English speaking population in the world today with an audience set that have a young mind-set and higher affinity toward English content. The biggest challenge thus is being relevant to the viewers as their tastes and needs change rapidly. Having a strong content strategy with great viewing experience is key.

Digital vs TV

Srivastava added, “Most of the premium content that we showcase is behind the paywall on OTT platforms. The SVOD business is still very small in India to have any impact on TV viewership or revenues. The OTT platforms are here to stay; they will certainly impact business models and acquisition prices in the long run. If windows are shared between OTT and broadcast, then the broadcast players will see a drop in content prices moving forward.”

On the other hand, Shah feels proliferation of OTT players has augmented the appeal of English content in India be it Hollywood or general entertainment. “This is visible in the growth numbers for the English category, which has seen an increase in viewership in FY 18 as compared to FY 17.”

Growth in 2018

“Overall TV base is growing and India is almost 60-70 per cent digitised. Then BARC numbers are showing that the English audience numbers are growing, then why will the genre lose its share? It is just that there is a double whammy. The last two year base has been low. The genre might show 12-13 per cent growth this year,” indicated Jailkhani.

But Sodhani has a different view. “Overall TV growth is expected to be between 12 and 15 percent. Then English genre will grow significantly lower than that.”

Shah, meanwhile said that that they are bullish about the category.

According to FICCI 2018 report, advertisers shifted spends to the digital medium, which led to digital advertising now contributing 17 per cent of total advertising in 2017. The share of digital advertising is expected to grow to 22 per cent by 2020. This growth will make digital the third largest segment of the Indian M&E sector by 2020, overtaking filmed entertainment. Now, whether this will impact the English in the long run or not, only time will tell.

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