Cable TV

A Time of Turmoil

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The state of the Indian television advertising market is not looking too good. Ditto as far as the health of some of the television channels is concerned. That's the diagnosis of media specialist Starcom Worldwide.

It says that although television is the only medium that has defied the slowdown of 2001, so much so that it came neck and neck with print in terms of its share of the overall advertising pie during this period, there is still some cause for worry.

TV spends, says Starcom Worldwide, have grown an estimated 10 per cent in 2001 over 2000 from $550 million to $600 million - almost all of the growth can be attributed to the spurt in the first half from $267 million (in H1 2000) to $333 million (in H1 2001). That good first half performance was matched by a poor show in H2 2001 when TV ad spend actually collapsed by eight to nine per cent on a year on year basis from $289 million to $267 million.

The reasons:

* Continuing poor performance of the economy leading to low offtake.

* Depressed bourses and sentiments.

* 11 September events in the US and the resulting uncertainties.

* Postponement of key brand launches.

* A short wedding season in October and November.

* Lacklustre festive buying.

Starcom Worldwide says the bad climate has played havoc with smaller TV networks and channels being the hardest hit: most specialist genre channels have closed 2001 below targets and many even below their 2000 targets. The share of general entertainment channels' too has plunged from 37 per cent to 32 per cent despite a lot of money pumped into programming and marketing. (Source: Intam: North+West Metros, SEC ABC 15-44, C&S, GenEnt=Hindi Ent+Hindi Movies).

Additionally, prime time is being redefined with channels launching new programming to stretch the evening both ways but weekends continue to see reduced viewing. More viewers are watching the same programmes and longer (the number of programmes with TVRs more than five has risen from 14 to 28 in the past year).Many of the programmes have become dailies, but most remain concentrated on one channel.

The fact that Star Plus is ruling like a colossus means that it has gained at everyone else's expense - including its own sister channels -in 2001 (Source: Intam, SEC AB 15-44, C&S, North+West, June 2000 Vs Sep 2001). 28 out of the top 50 prime time programmes are part of Star Plus' Fixed Point Chart(FPC), says Starcom Worldwide, and it commands a 70% higher viewing share than the nearest rival, dominating all days of the week.

The transformation has been remarkable. The year 2000 had Zee TV with a channel share of 14 per cent marginally ahead of Sony (13 per cent) and Star lagging behind with a miniscule three per cent audience share. Today, Star Plus is at 15 per cent, and both Zee (six per cent) and Sony (nine per cent) combined match Star Plus' share. (Channel shares all day: Source: Intam, SEC AB 15-44, C&S, North+West, June 2000 Vs Sep 2001).

This has allowed Star Plus to charge a premium on Cost Per Rating Point (CPRP) with its per 10 second GRP cost being $400 as against $208 for Zee TV and $156 for Sony (Average CPRP for M 25+, SEC: ABC). Its dominance raises questions on the investment ability of Sony and Zee.

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