Media planners blamed for shrinking DD advertiser base

MUMBAI: With its advertiser base declining steadily, public broadcaster Doordarshan has dropped its 'unwritten' clause requiring software producers to buy additional spot buys.

While this has lured back producers like BR Chopra, Sanjay Khan and Dheeraj Kumar back to the terrestrial channel, (particularly with reduced primetime telecast fees now costing Rs 3,50,000 for 30 minutes with 120 seconds of advertising time), "warped" perceptions of media planners and buyers are still keeping the advertiser away from DD, claims the pubcaster.

DD's dwindling client base has forced it to rationalise and re-negotiate terms with producers. Earlier, many producers considered DD to be an unviable proposition as it insisted on additional spot buys at Rs 80,000 for every additional ten-second spot. Total advertising time during the DD hey-days in 2000-2001 had increased to 15 minutes for a one hour episode. DD had got used to higher telecast fees of Rs 4.2 million and producers used to make profits even on these higher telecast fees.

With DD back wooing producers, Dheeraj Kumar's Creative Eye has bought slots on the DD afternoon band, while Sanjay Khan's Numero Uno is back with two mega serials - Maharathi Karna and 1857 Kranti (which had been discontinued after four episodes in its earlier run in May 2001). BR TV is ruling the roost with Ravi Chopra's Aap Beeti which featured in seven out of the Top 10 shows on DD in 2002. Shows like Om Namah Shivaya, Chitrahaar, Rangoli (all Creative Eye) and Zameer (Mukta Telearts) were pulled out of DD in February 2001when the telecast fees shot up.

However, DD producers also blame the media planners and buyers who they say have been responsible for DD's dwindling base of 100 clients reducing to less than 50 in the last few years. "There is a clear mismatch, as the brands who should be on DD are shifting loyalties to C&S homes. The main culprits are ad agencies, planners and buyers who don't have an understanding of the ground realities of semi-urban and rural areas; have never travelled to these areas; never interacted with the audiences in these areas and don't have hard-core marketing experience," says a producer on condition of anonymity.

Reach of DD channels as per IRS 2002 (All adults 12 yrs plus)    

DD channels

C&S channels

All India


(36.7 per cent)


(23.4 per cent)



(48.8 per cent)


(50.5 per cent)



(31.5 per cent)


(12.2 per cent)

"BR Chopra's serial Aap Beeti had seven slots in the Top 10 list of DD's programmes in week 1-46 of 2002. The high TRPs ranged between 13.38 and 12.42 for this period. An Aap Beeti episode reached out to 14,33 million viewers on 3 September 2002. Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kyunki Saas bhi kabhi bahu thi could manage 7.04 million and 7.01 million viewers," says Reasonable Advertising vice president marketing S A Khan who markets the BR TV's serials Aap Beeti and Vishnupurana.

"The fact remains that the viewers in semi-urban areas and rural markets also have substantial purchasing power - especially true of pockets in the states of Punjab and Haryana," adds Khan.

"If one travels beyond the metros to the smaller towns and district levels, DD continues to rule. In the Hindi belt, DD's national network still remains popular," adds Universal Communications' MD Padmakar Nandekar, who claims his three programmes contribute 60 per cent to DD Mumbai's revenues.

The programmes marketed by Nandekar include the feature films on Saturday and Sunday and the dubbed Laurel Hardy show on Sunday. Nandekar also has other programmes on DD-Thiruvananthapuran (four serials including three dailies and one weekly); DD-Chennai (one daily); DD-Bangalore (feature film on the premier Sunday afternoon slot). 

The telecast fees for DD (Mumbai) Sahyadri channels are Rs 26,000 for 30-minute episodes with Rs 12,000 for additional 10-second spots.

Many producers are also investing in dubbed versions of the serials. Both the BR TV serials are being simultaneously dubbed into four languages - Hindi, Tamil, Telegu and Malayalam. Industry experts say that the dubbed versions result in a cost increase of anything between Rs 1,50,000 and 2,00,000 but the increased TVRs and the revenues from advertising compensates for the overruns.

Inspite of all these efforts and ratings, media planners and buyers are coaxing advertisers to choose the C&S platform, allege producers. Several categories like lower-end lubricants, two-wheelers and consumer durables are gradually increasing their spends on C&S and reducing spends on DD. FMCGs is one category which is still ruling on the DD scene. "Ad agency planners must take lessons from Hindustan Lever's managers who believe in using DD to reach out to the interiors, semi-urban and rural areas. Many HLL managers know the ground realities and use media vehicles accordingly. Colgate Palmolive, on the other hand has reduced its spends on DD. Currently, HLL, Parle Beverages, Zandu, Dabur, All Out insecticides are advertising with us," says Nandekar.

Khan adds: " Our top advertisers include HLL, P&G, Godrej Soaps, Nirma, Zandu and Dabur. HLL has branded our offering as Wheel Vishnupurana. Life Insurance Corporation has regularly advertised with us. When brands like Saridon and Burnol were with the Reckitt Piramal combine, they used be heavy spenders on DD but are currently reducing spends. What is sad is the fact that several lubricants are shifting loyalties to C&S and reducing spends on DD," he says.

"Earlier, Bajaj Auto used DD whereas it has increased spends in C&S channels. Media planners are recommending C&S for Mahindra and Mahindra's family MUVs. All these brands ought to be on DD, " says Khan, adding that he had earlier urged some white goods companies like Kalyani Sharp to advertise on DD and they had managed to get a good response.

When questioned about the better SEC A profile of C&S channels, DD loyalist producers claim that many of the buying decisions of the SEC A households are taken by their employees (drivers and servants). They also quote the IRS studies are a better indicator than the TAM ratings as it has a sample size of more than 2,00,000 individuals whereas TAM has recently increased the scope of its ratings to place the sample size at somewhere between 3,454-4,555 metres.

Some DD loyalists also point out that certain areas of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh are not included in the TAM studies.

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