SSB report claims that Zee Telefilms 4QFY03 to be hit

MUMBAI: A Salomon Smith Barney report estimated that Zee Telefilms would not fare well 4QFY03. The forthcoming World Cup cricket 2003 in February and March might affect the revenue, the report says.

The report stated that the shift from the general entertainment channels to the sports channels could be among the other reasons including the following:

Advertising revenue for Zee TV could be under pressure in 4QFY03 as ad spend shifts toward channels broadcasting World Cup cricket

New movie strategy unlikely to engineer a long-term shift in viewer patterns

Dominance of Star Plus is absolute across time bands

Given this gap, an overnight turnaround in Zee's fortunes is unlikely - investors will have time to ride the leverage wave

Overall macro story remains attractive although Zee will continue to lose market share if status quo continues.

Exceprts from the report:

Star Plus is the undisputed leader of viewer ratings across all segments of Indian television. But the challenge for Zee is not to bridge the gap in a single prime-time slot but across the entire daily viewing band. Investment in content that retains viewers across time bands is needed to alter market share patterns - just one driver show won't do.

In hindsight, KBC (its channel-driver show) alone wasn't enough to create the kind of leadership that Star Plus enjoys. Star's programming team engineered a complete shift in viewer patterns by following through with high quality programming designed to keep the viewer throughout the prime-time band.

The success of this strategy is shown as Star Plus continues to reign supreme across all prime-time bands even though KBC has been off the air for over six months."

The viewer data and the 'time spent' data showed that India's one-TV households seem to have become predominantly one-channel households, choosing to spend over 60 percent of their daily prime-time viewing on Star Plus.

Sampling of shows on other channels seems to have significantly declined. While this kind of leadership is unlikely to last forever, the aspirants (Sony and Zee) have an uphill road ahead to change viewer patterns in their favor. Advertisers are unlikely to support them as long as Star programs continue to enjoy such high stickiness and ratings.

The hegemony becomes difficult to break as a lack of sampling of other channels increases the ad break ratings for Star Plus. This enables Star to negotiate higher rates and reduce clutter for both advertisers and viewers. This strategy is perhaps the most difficult for the aspirants to counter.

Zee is not broadcasting any World Cup cricket matches and this is a risk to advertising revenue growth in 4QFY03. Advertising spend is likely to follow the viewer and shift toward channels broadcasting World Cup Cricket (Sony & DD Sports) from general entertainment channels.

Sports is a gap in Zee's otherwise strong broadcasting package and could pose a risk to the growth in domestic subscription revenues during the cricket season.

It is arguable that:

a) World Cup Cricket itself could drive strong growth in the macro-market and if Zee is able to retain market share it should benefit

b) Historically, a significant shift from general entertainment to sports channels has not been noted during previous tournaments

However, we believe during the last World Cup Cricket (1999) the impact on general entertainment channels was limited (and the shift was not discernible) as the overall advertising pie was growing at a healthy pace of about 25 percent plus.

In FY2003, as shown by the 1HFY03 results of various FMCG companies (HLL, Nestle, Colgate), advertising spend has been significantly curtailed and some industry estimates suggest overall growth is likely to be only in the region of 5-6 percent. 

The second quarter was a sad one for Zee TV. The TAM Media Research Adex Data (TAMMRAD) and Salomon Smith Barney (SSB) estimate that that the total duration advertised (in seconds) on Zee TV was far behind Star Plus and Sony between 23 June and 28 September (Week 26 to Week 39).

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