By Sharad Alwe
Two weeks into the nationwide lockdown, 130 crore Indians have gradually adjusted to the new normal. Health workers and security services are working tirelessly to ensure that the lockdown is effective, and the central/state government machinery, along with and supply chains for essential goods and services, are doing their best to ensure that food and financial security is available for those who need it most. Meanwhile, India Inc. remains in survival mode, with companies trying their best to remain engaged with customers and internal stakeholders through this very difficult period.
All through the lockdown, the Cable Television industry and its network of over 1000 distributors are working round the clock, to ensure that during this period of uncertainty and inactivity, all of India remains connected, entertained, and informed.
The Cable TV industry was established in 1990, when there were only two DD channels. Slowly but surely, this industry has now grown to over 1000 MSOs and more than 50,000 Local Cable Operators, supporting over 500 satellite channels, and around 5000 regionally relevant and locally curated cable TV channels, reaching 120 million households covering the length, breadth and depth of India. It is also a fact that while Metros have alternatives in terms of OTT, it is only Cable TV that has more than 60% penetration in Rural India.
Most of us in the M&A industry would be privy to some interesting recent data available (Nielsen-BARC, Kantar) on the pre and post Covid-19 lockdown viewership, ad insertions, and consumption patterns per category. The data tells us that while Live TV and fresh content is low during the lockdown, TV viewership is up by 11%, TSV (time spent per viewer) is up 23%, and while news is up by 298%, Movies are up by 56%. Household reach has gone up, as more households are tuning in. Non-primetime viewership is up by 71%, as more household members are home with no outdoor activity.
Apart from satellite channels, there are around 2500 cable movie channels, and 500 local news channels, with locally curated and fresh content and information. Deep into regional India, audiences look to their local news channels for latest updates on Covid-19 in their district and township, and local news is a critical source of truth.
Since there is no fresh content available, and no Live TV, TV audiences at home are searching for fresh content. Regional and locally curated cable movie channels have always shown fresh content, with 56% of movies being 2018 release or later. During this difficult lockdown period, and immediately after, the demand decline and business impact of the current inactivity will impact all industries. Companies and Brands will focus on survival, improving immediate term cash flows, and ensuring employees are safe and secure.
That being said, India Inc would do well to stay engaged with their consumers, who are presently all at home. Recent research quotes that 62% of consumers suggested that brands should continue to talk to them through this crisis. Well regarded studies show that going away from one’s well planned ad campaign could severely impact the Brand’s health, especially the long-term impact, and the claw-back for Top-of-Mind share can be very challenging.
As we all try to navigate this crisis and mitigate the health scare, there is also the scare of the long-term economic impact. Companies and brands need to seek out innovative means to remain connected with their customers, using the ecosystem available for smart messaging. Eventually, the industry needs to revitalize the economy, and this will happen only through increased consumption of goods and services.
Cable Television has always been an extremely effective medium to communicate with all audiences at a national, regional and local level, This is a time where people are consuming a lot of content that is local, regional, non-primetime, and there is inventory available on more reasonable TV and Cable TV channels and genres. This reflects in the regional viewership numbers as well, which are high. In this period of uncertainty, the industry would do well to utilize the reach and availability of Cable Television to communicate with their audiences, and stay engaged, while we all do the best we can to remain socially responsible, as we claw our way out of this immediate crisis.
The author is co-founder and CEO of Update Geotarget