Bengal's broadcasters battle ad slowdown

KOLKATA: Last week, if one followed the rupee-dollar crisis anything close to a heart attack was inevitable. Thanks to the economic upheaval and slowdown thereafter, the media industry is going through a rough patch.

Bengali general entertainment channels (GECs), news and other TV channels are seeing a downward trend in ad spends. The urge to splurge is giving way to an urge to curb spends and the Bengali TV ad market is expected to remain flat at last year‘s Rs 700 crore, according to media analysts.

The largest chunk of this revenue, which is anything between 35-40 per cent, comes from non-banking financial institutions (NBFCs). However, that has melted down, because of a loss of investor confidence in NBFCs. The experts say that the change has come in after the Saradha Group’s chit fund scam that occurred in the beginning of the current financial year.

"Many other companies which are engaged in money marketing have reduced their ad spends too. Firstly, to stay away from the authorities’ menacing eyes and secondly, they seem to think even after spending a huge amount on advertising, investors are not gullible enough to put in their hard earned money into the chit fund schemes," says a media buying professional who didn’t want to be named.

A slowing economy hits smaller companies first as they don‘t have enough resources to get through the downturn. And hence, the first steps taken by them is pulling the noose on marketing and ad spends.

"The main spenders for ads in the electronic media are the chit fund companies. With these companies now lying low or some even going bust, the regional channels are bleeding badly. And even channels as big as 24 Ghanta and ABP Ananda aren’t spared. If one looks at the current situation in the news genre, the two popular vernacular channels - 24 Ghanta and ABP Ananda - do a monthly business of around Rs 2 crore as compared to Rs 2.5 crore garnered earlier. Hence, they are coming up with several attractive advertising packages to lure clients," informs a media analyst.

Some of the main advertisers on these channels are Japani Oil, Chayya Prakashini, Rice Group??? . However, their spends have not managed to compensate for the loss of chit fund advertising and are not adequate enough for the news channels to meet their operational expenses. "These channels must devise their strategies to remain afloat in the market," media managers added.

George Telegraph Group, engaged in education, earmarks around Rs 2 crore as its annual ad budget. "We allocate 75 per cent to the print media and in the electronic media, we advertise on mainly news channels and some music channels," says George Telegraph Group director Atin Dutta. He goes on to add that the group doesn’t advertise much in the month of October because the admission season is over and there is too much clutter during the Puja.

Kolkata TV editor-in-chief Biswa Majumdar says: "Most of the TV channels whether big or small are in trouble as their ad revenues have gone down by at least 30 per cent due to the slowdown and clients not spending much on regional media."

"Within the Kolkata market wherein city-based advertisers contribute almost 25 per cent of the total revenue (Rs 700 crore), the advertising rate is Rs 1,000 per 10 seconds .It is likely to remain the same this year as well. Soon, we all would have to come out with packages. Also, there is a need for national advertising to spread out to regional channels as well," says Akash business editor Amitabava Banerjee.

Kolkata TV‘s Majumdar says that the financial scene is so bad that till now nobody has started booking for the festive season (Durga Puja) as well. "The scene is dire with no signs of recovery," he says.

Pipalmajik CEO and founder CM Mitra says: "When sales of the companies go down due to downturn, promotion related ads are adopted by companies to increase the topline. Retail and FMGCs are likely to spend on such promotions to liquidate their stocks."

Also, with Digital Addressable System (DAS) in place, customers are going to opt for their preferred channels. Therefore, smaller and not-so-popular players will perish.

GECs gain as others lose

 “In the current year, around Rs 550 crore would be bagged by the GECs while the rest will be split between news, movies and other channels,” asserts media analyst Mrinal Chatterjee.

“The GECs continue to dominate the canvas of Kolkata television ad  market, with high production values and a robust content bank based on local programming,” he adds.

BPN India executive VP Mahesh Motwani too feels that considering the viewership trends in Kolkata, GECs will continue to attract more ads than any other TV genre.

The trend of the maha episode was started by the Late Jishu Dasgupta in his serials likeKuhasha Jhokon and Tithir Athithi on ETV Bangla in the late 90s and has been copied by other GECs like Star Jhalsa and Zee Bangla now. "Clients can spend crores to catch the attention of the TV viewers who are glued to their screens to know what would happen next!" adds Motwani.

"We Bongs don’t allow ourselves to be deprived of fish in our daily meal, so how could any fast-moving consumer goods brand manufacturing mustard paste let an opportunity go past an audience who are big time foodies?" feels consultant Sayan Chatterjee. He adds that FMCG companies would and should spend on marketing and advertising no matter how bad the economy is.

Talking about cable TV advertising, Chatterjee, who is also the convener of the Cable Shilpa Bachao Committee, said it has been on the up.

For GECs, the clients’ aim is to place spots between 7:30 pm and 11:00 pm and for news channels the preferred slot is between 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm, inform media managers.

Furthermore, with just 40 days to go for Durga Puja, undoubtedly, it is the time for local and national conglomerates to reach out to the hearts, sentiments and pockets of every Bengali family via the Bengali media.

However, this time, from all indications, it appears as if most of the players in Bengal‘s broadcast space will be in not as celebratory a mood as in previous years. Is the goddess listening?

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