'FTA will give eyeballs, pay will provide stickiness'

MUMBAI: The free to air channels will provide the eyeballs and the pay channels will provide stickiness. These words by TV Today's Aaj Tak CEO G Krishnan summed up the discussions during the session on "FTA channels: Will they see a massive jump in ad revenues?" at The National CAS Media Summit 2003 organised by at Mumbai's Hyatt Regency Hotel on 4 July 2003.

The general consensus was that FTA channels will gain initially during the rollout of CAS and ad rates of these channels might go up even as advertisers take cognizance of their increased viewership. CEO Anil Wanvari moderated the session that was attended by Lodestar Media executive director Shashi Sinha; SABTNL president (sales) Kanta Advani; Doordarshan Mumbai DG Mukesh Sharma; TV Today Netowrk-owned Aaj Tak CEO G Krishnan and Euro RSCG's media independent Media Planning Group president Sandip Tarkas.

Here, we present some excerpts from the discussions.

Media Planning Group president Sandip Tarkas

Post-CAS disruption is bound to happen as experimentation by the consumer increases. TV viewing habits will not change. People will continue to long for their favourite channels by sheer force of habit formed through the previous decade.

Advertisers haven't called or any postponements in their spends as yet.

Lodestar Media executive vice president Shashi Sinha

To segregate audiences into FTA or pay TV audiences will be misleading.

Media planners and buyers have to look at genres and examine whether they are exploiting them to reach the desired objective.

One has to take a long term view or perspective as the short term glitches are understandable. The next six months should be treated as aberrations or glitches but the fraternity has to set sights on the long term impacts. The interim period should be used as a learning process.

The print media will definitely gain in the short term.

TV Today CEO G Krishnan

Viewership habits will become normal after the transition phase subsides.

However, one cannot expect any drastic increases in the advertising shift to FTA channels or a drastic reduction in that of pay channels - given the current scenario and uncertainty about CAS implementation.

At the most, clients will postpone signing annual deals and will take a short term perspective.

The distinction has not yet been made clear to the consumer. The uncertainty will compound the problems.

The FTA channels will provide eyeballs; pay channels will provide stickiness.

Pay channels will increasingly depend on subscription revenues and will divert their attention from ad revenues in the long term.

However, I don't see the need for FTA channels to hike their rates. The important thing is to bring more transparency in the rate structure.

All the channels have an annual financial and business plan and the management won't look at short term measures to increase revenues by using drastic measures such as immediate rate hikes in the initial phase of CAS implementation. News channels will have to look at "event of the day" to entice viewers.

Doordarshan DG Mukesh Sharma

Regional terrestrial channels will emerge out of the shadows to become strong contenders for the ad pie. After all, their audience shares are comparable to the mass entertainment channels.

Three main categories will emerge - FTA, pay premium and pay popular. However, there will be a need for regulating software in addition to hardware. People will watch the DD channels as they won't have much of a choice.

The public broadcaster will gear up and invest in quality content.

The national broadcaster's rates are due to revision now (C&S channels have been raising rates quite often) and we shall increase them at an appropriate time in the near future.

SABTNL president (sales) Kanta Advani

It is definite that advertisers will chase viewership. The viewership of those channels that are available (FTA channels) will definitely see a surge.

Planners and buyers will have to take cognizance of this increase in viewership of FTA channels.

It is possible that those FTA channels that have more viewers might increase their ad rates and advertisers will have to pay a premium. However, the spike will be dictated by market realities - it cannot be unrealistic.

Several mass entertainment FTA channels have recently taken initiatives to upgrade their content but this is not due to CAS. Such initiatives are part of an ongoing process based on consumer feedback and demand. Every channel tries to retain its market share and increase the same - such initiatives are part of a never ending process.

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