The development has generated mixed reactions within the media fraternity. It is believed that there may be little to no impact on the viewership of the channels, in spite of being reported independently; however, this segregation is likely to affect advertising interest, especially for FTA channels.
By Sonam Saini
Advertisers queuing up to buy inventory across prime TV shows may have to rethink their media buying strategies, keeping in mind Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India’s latest initiative to measure viewership of free-to-air (FTA) and pay television separately, starting from week 27 (June 29-July 5). This has been done with an aim to “get a better understanding of viewership habits, enabling focussed targeting for both broadcasters and advertisers”, according to the measurement agency. Thus far, the only segmentation offered up to advertisers was in terms of urban and rural viewership.
The development has generated mixed reactions within the media fraternity. It is believed that there may be little to no impact on the viewership of the channels, in spite of being reported independently; however, this segregation is likely to affect advertising interest, especially for FTA channels. “Even in rural India, 65% of the universe is pay. Therefore, the myth of the rural consumer solely being an FTA patron is busted,” said Ashish Sehgal, chief growth officer, ZEEL. “This move will help us garner the value of the rural consumer as well, thereby correcting pricing/CPRP (cost per rating point) across pay channels. This is especially important, as FTA channels have already established pricing for their consumer sets.”
Furthermore, broadcasters can now make more informed decisions on content and distribution, by evaluating how consumption is happening across a variety of homes. “Such data is good for both advertisers and broadcasters. However, it all depends on how the data would be interpreted,” notes Pawan Jailkhani, chief revenue officer, 9X Media, while adding that it may be a bit early in the day to predict anything; a more informed decision on the use of such additional data sets could probably be made after evaluating two to four weeks’ worth of data.
Post Trai’s new tariff regime, broadcasters like Zee Entertainment Enterprises (ZEEL), Star India, Viacom18 and Sony Pictures Network had withdrawn their FTA channels from the DD FreeDish platform, as a result of which as is known, a relatively unknown player — Dangal TV — had shot up to the top spot in terms of viewership in the Hindi GEC rural segment due to its FTA nature. After BARC India’s separate FTA and pay TV viewership analysis, Dangal TV continues to lead the top ten channels list across both platforms (pay and FTA) with 722 million impressions in week 27, followed by Star Plus and Zee TV on the second and third slots, with 664 million and 636 million impressions, respectively. But it’s anyone’s guess whether these dynamics will change in the coming weeks.
On the FTA-only spectrum, Dangal and Big Magic have bagged the first two spots with 538 million and 391 million impressions, respectively, whereas in the pay TV analysis, Star Plus and Zee TV are at first and second rank with 662 million and 634 million impressions each.
Advertisers are also well positioned to buy slots more effectively now, after considering data that doesn’t just identify the region from which the consumer hails (rural or urban), but also the consumer profile — whether he is a pay consumer or prefer FTA. But could this segregation give an edge to pay channels? After the Trai order, FTA channels were trying to increase their ad rates based on high viewership numbers. Since the common assumption is that audiences on DD FreeDish are not as premium as pay TV audiences, media buyers might, in light of the new data sets, not give FTA the same high prices as before. “There will be resistance by advertisers on FTA price hikes. This may not augur well for DD FreeDish channels,” opines Vineet Sodhani, CEO, Spatial Access.
But the opposite holds true now: pay TV broadcasters may demand a hike in ad rates, citing premium viewership as opposed to DD FreeDish viewership. “When things settle down, if the broadcaster can claim a higher income audience, it would be able to offer targetted advertising to selective audiences, thereby commanding a premium,” mentions Jehil Thakkar, head, media and entertainment and partner, Deloitte. While advertisers may tweak the advertising strategy based on the quality of the audience, the primary driver in television continues to be reach.
Currently, DD FreeDish has an approximate reach of 30 million households and according to EY-FICCI Frames Report 2019, it has the potential to reach 50 million households by 2020. As per BARC India, in the Hindi Speaking Markets (HSM), two out of 10 homes are free homes, accounting for almost 140 million TV viewing individuals. The pay and free viewer differs significantly not only in terms of demographics but also their characteristics, values, lifestyle and psychographics.