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Dear ad-mediamen: Will you bell the CAS cat?

Dear advertising, media professionals, advertisers and broadcasters,

(Warning!!!! Please treat this as constructive criticism because the views of your own fraternity and industry bigwigs have been taken into consideration)

After spending nearly eight hours at the "Advertising

Meltdown: A CASe of Conflict" summit organised by

indiantelevision.com on 4 July at Mumbai's Hyatt Regency, this writer feels that a new chapter has opened in the era of media planning, buying and advertising. One just hopes and prays that you don't get CAStawayed!

You are about to enter a new phase totally different from

* the days in which legends such as Roda Mehta, PRP Nair solved complex reach and frequency related problems on sheets of paper;

* the days when number crunchers such as Pravin Tripathi, Lynn D'Souza, Kalpana Sathe, Meenakshi Madhvani combined psychographic, demographic profiles with their gut feeling;

*the days when professionals and veterans such as Amit Ray and Suku Murti urged rookie media professionals to let go of their computer screens and venture outside - even as media pros turned research specialists such as LV Krishnan fed them with infinite interpretations of data;

* the days when 'clients turned media professionals' such as Vikram Sakhuja urged media trainees to think from the client's perspective and place this above all;

* the days when buyers such as Ravi Kiran, Jeffrey Crasto, Harish Shriyan extracted the best deals at rock bottom prices, obtained value for money and had airtime sellers smiling as they walked out of the cabins!

However, some people feel that you are still not giving your 100 per cent despite all the late hours that you put in.

Madison Communications CMD Sam Balsara, one of the first ad professionals to take a calculated risk and create a collaborative partnership between clients and TV producer for an innovation called Shanti, spoke from the heart when he said: "Media planners and buyers will also have to unlearn the past because the standard marketing formula is dead. There will be no single solution that will fit all needs. CAS will take segmentation to greater heights. There is a great opportunity for little but measurable fragmentation. Media planners and buyers who have failed to don the mantle of 'media consumers' have given advertising a bad name. They have added to the kitty of broadcasters and stopped being media professionals. They earned themselves the tag of 'TAM rating consumers'," he says.

Lodestar Media executive director Shashi Sinha wants you to treat the next six months as a learning experience. He is adamant that 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 cum testing process," says Sinha.

Media Reach Research VP Kapil Anand points out the deficiencies in the current system which you are oblivious or pretend to ignore: "The Indian market is already used to a certain form of CAS. But no planner or buyer speaks about it. In several regions outside of metros, CAS is enforced even now as cable TV depends on the type of television sets and the frequency on which channels are delivered. Several homes in these areas have black n white TV sets and the frequencies don't go beyond 450MHz," adds Anand.

MindShare Fulcrum MD Vikram Sakhuja gives you a 'scary glimpse' or 'sneak preview' of the futuristic convergence era: "Viewers will be empowered to seek out, choose - similar to the manner in which present day Internet surfers behave. Ways will have to be found to address focused or segmented viewers; to devise a stimulus that has to elicit response; to

create integrated communication solutions in the true sense; to lure the viewer who will be passive to programmes that he doesn't want. The communication has to stand out."

Well, listen to the wise men as your world is about to change. If you don't want to be left behind and listen to what the new "CAS age gurus" have to say then read on about 10 mantras to remain CAS-savvy!

1) Your universe will change - rather get metamorphosed:



Media expert Meenakshi Madhvani tells you what is in store: "The media planning scenario post CAS will not be very different than the existing one. There will be three different audiences - terrestrial, FTA C&S audiences and CAS C&S audiences. Pay channel homes will definitely be seen as the premium households but there is no clear cut evidence that products targeting mass media will be affected to lesser extent than those targeting niche segments."



Lodestar Media executive vice president Shashi Sinha says: "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."

Doordarshan Mumbai DG Mukesh Sharma makes an interesting observation: 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.

2) Get out of the rut of screen based media planning

but not too much!

A veteran of 20 years in media planning and buying, BroadMind national director Suku Murti warns: "Smart marketers have realised the need to go beyond TRPs and GRPs. They are asking for ways to strengthen and supplement their ad spends. The market has to move beyond the obvious."

Starcom MD (west and south) Ravi Kiran points out that the current postponement or deferment will ensure that there are grey areas. "There would also be intrinsic complexities wherein subscribers would invest in a set top box, subscribe to pay channels and then even stop subscribing in the next month. However, the overall, TV viewership will not drop," says Kiran.

WPP Marketing Communications director (marketing and corporate affairs) Sai Nagesh has a piece of relevant advice: "The longevity of TRPs will shift from the quarterly mode to a daily or weekly or monthly mode. So be prepared to be flexible. Plans will have to be updated on a daily basis."

TAM India CEO LV Krishnan however believes, "With CAS, India is moving in the direction that several developed countries are already heading towards. However, it is important 'to take life as it is and just live with it' in the post CAS scenario. Well, in the post CAS scenario, rating agencies will incorporate some minor changes in the universe of C&S households to provide information on those households that invest in set top boxes to watch pay channels. Tracking of the CAS homes will start from day one. However, the readings will not alter dramatically till an optimum level of adoption of set top boxes is reached. The representation will not change much unless penetration reaches a certain level."

3) Ask your rating agency research provider difficult

questions and one that you have never asked:




Media researcher Prashant Sanwal has some ready made questions: "The post CAS scenario will be ruled by complexity, cut throat competition and constant change. However, rating agencies need to offer holistic solutions rather than incomplete ones. The rating agencies have to offer qualitative aspects and psychographic insights. For instance, things such as "why do certain people watch a certain programmes?"; "why do certain people invest in STBs?"; "since lower SECs are conscious about status and prestige, won't they invest in an STB earlier than the elite that has access to several forms of entertainment?" amongst others."

Sanwal adds: "Rating agencies must understand that 'watching is not involvement'. There is an eternal issue of 'solidarity versus power' - certain individuals in households take control of the remote at different times during the day; the other family members are forced to watch certain channels. Rating agencies have to measure the co-relation between message effectiveness and placements of brand within programmes. After all, every surface message has

meta-messages."

Optimum Media Solutions senior V-P Amit Ray sees the brighter side of things: "CAS provides an opportunity for the media fraternity to go beyond ratings. Rating agencies or other institutions will have to install consumer panels. There is a need to test consumers and find out how many of them remember advertising and respond to them. The heterogeneity of audiences is much more complex and it cannot be tackled by minimal amount of data; one needs to add supplements. Advertisers cannot cut costs or investments in research when they seek so many answers."

Media expert Raj Nayak has a word of caution: "Rating agencies must remember that OTG Update is related to connectivity and therefore to subscription. Ratings will always be important and cannot be ignored. Advertising is linked to the quality of the content. In India content is king while distribution is God. Both has to be given equal importance. There is a need to re-examine the traditional definitions of SEC A. In the current system, certain niche channels get ignored. Industry constituents must join forces to look at research related issues."

4) But don't depend excessively on the set top box:



Nayak points out: "Having a set top box in a house doesn't imply that the members of the household will buy all the pay channels. It is possible that they will use the box to view merely one or two pay channels - perhaps just a Star Plus."

Ravi Kiran warns: "Till date, no MSO has claimed to provide data on individual viewership. Media planners and buyers will still have to depend on audited TV ratings. In the initial phase, TV audience data will not even report CAS homes. One million is too small a figure."

5) Support FTA channels in their drive for better content by sharing risks:

Balsara asks for your support: "The immediate short term (one year) will provide opportunities for FTA channels. FTA channels have to generate good content and this is a challenge for them. FTA channels should be supported in their drive for content. Ad agencies, clients must capitalise on this opportunity and be prepared to share risk with the broadcasters. The entire chain has to share the risk. We had taken this risk long back with the afternoon show Shanti on Doordarshan that was sponsored by Godrej. It created a whole new audience and redefined the concept of prime time. This was innovation too. Ad agencies will have to take the lead or else an outside trader will grab the opportunity."

TV Today's Aaj Tak CEO G Krishnan makes a valid point by saying: "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."

Madhvani adds: "Terrestrial channels will be taken far more seriously; Doordarshan will grow. It is possible that the FTA channels will occupy prime bands."

DD Mumbai's Sharma offers: "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."

6) Acknowledge regional cable channels as a big

opportunity:




Balsara laments: "Cable channels are an opportunity lost as ad agencies haven't really understood their true potential."

INCableNet IndusInd Communications vice president George Sebastian makes a CASe: "Media planners and buyers need to seriously look at the organised cable business as against the entire regional cable channel business because the former has certain attributes such as a controlled environment; better supervision; and is tracked by the rating agencies. TAM tracks the FPC based centrally capsuled network channels such as CVO. Several MSOs such as INCableNet have augmented their fibre optic networks in metros in order to improve quality of transmission. Their preference for movies will increase post CAS given the fact that there are no FTA movie channels."

Live Satellite Media CMD Atul Saraf extolls the virtues of regional cable channels: "Regional cable has never got its due from media planners and buyers. Regional cable TV offers guaranteed viewership and has a higher retention capacity. Its availability on the prime band is a big advantage. Post CAS, one hopes that it will get recognition amongst the media planning fraternity. Monitoring agencies will have to track these channels seriously. More viewers will watch these channels and the eyeballs will bring in more revenues."

OTS Update's Hemant Diwete seeks testimonial marketing: "Advertisers must follow the example of several top advertisers such as Hindustan Lever have started using the regional cable channels simply because their research showed that these channels could not be ignored. In several areas or localities, these regional cable channels give 100 per cent reach and are highly popular."

Euro RSCG's media independent Media Planning Group president Sandip Tarkas is still unconvinced but... "The size of the pie is between Rs 3 billion and Rs 7 billion at the headend level. I don't see the share of the ad pie increasing phenomenally. However, if MSOs are able to really localise the content and innovate - for instance local news channels, local sports channels, local events channels (festivals) - then one can expect the pie to grow."

7) Make broadcasters realise that they need to unlearn:



Balsara foresees: "In the medium term, broadcasters with niche content will do well. There will be real innovation in terms of focused channels such as fitness channels, health channels, game show channels amongst others. All these channels will be targeted at a certain kind of audiences and there will be takers. Also, powerful content ideas with low content costs will become the order of the day. A programme such as Rajani or Buniyaad made more impact and delivered greater value than a Kyunki Saas Bhi does now. Broadcasters have to understand that advertisers don't make huge profits or get high returns from placements of ads."

Sakhuja redefines thinking to which the post CAS broadcasters have to be attuned: "Media planners have to get broadcasters to think in terms of unique content ideas and deliver the same at lower costs. Broadcasters have to work on smaller viewer bases. The Big Ticket items will come from programmes that appeal to the lowest common denominator such as cricket or an idea such as KBC."

Ravi Kiran offers clarity: "The debate is not about FTA versus pay but about what viewers would want to watch in the near future. There could be channels on gambling, horse racing, court cases amongst others. Broadcasters have to think in terms of giving viewers better content."

Suku Murti offers a word of advice: "There is a need for broadcasters and publications to come out with integrated offerings - The Times of India group has already started doing so. Advertisers will have to align with pay broadcasters and ensure that channel subscription packages will become part of the offerings during brand promotions. For instance, buy a television and get Star Plus subscription free for a year so on and so forth."

Madhvani however, paints a gloomy picture: "Pay channels will lose revenues because smaller audiences will definitely imply a reduction in ad revenues."

Zee Cinema business head and ETC promoter Yogesh Radhakrishnan doesn't rule out the possibility of pay channels totally blanking out ads: "Eventually, it is also possible that pay TV channels will decide to do away with ad revenues when the subscription revenues reaches a certain optimum levels. If broadcasters can sustain the channel at that point with subscription revenues, they can ignore advertising revenues completely."

About niche pay channels, TAM India CEO LV Krishnan says: "The time spent on channels will decrease as the number of channels increases or choice increases. It doesn't make sense for advertisers to invest in research that will focus on niche channels beyond a certain point as the increase, if there is one, will be marginal. More time has to be spent on studying impact on the fragmentation at the top end that reaches out to more people."

8) Prepare for convergence right now:



Balsara says: "In the long term (five years), if CAS becomes a success, then convergence will become a reality. CAS will become the catalyst for convergence. However, nothing will change overnight."

Sakhuja offers an insight: "Innovation will become more evolved during the era of choice driven control. The key aspects will be interactivity and interconnectivity. Till now, media planners and buyers have been thinking in terms of 'cost per reach point' and 'cost per rating' point. Post CAS, they will have to give respect to 'cost per action point'.

9) Become an adept in creating optional plans and alternatives:



Sakhuja has this piece of advice: "Till now media planners and buyers have equated innovation with 'marrying message with the medium'. They must elevate their thinking and take it to the next frontier with out of the box thinking. Customised plans are the order of the day. Media planners must come up with alternative media plans."

10) Be prepared for rate hikes and premiums that will

change by the day or by the hour:

DD Mumbai's Sharma reasons: "The national broadcaster's rates are due for 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 emphatically states: "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."

Madhvani claims: "Pay channels might reduce the amount of advertising they accept but add a premium value to the existing rates."

Nayak reminisces: "Whenever, there were blackouts, media buyers have forced broadcasters to offer discounts. Therefore, rate negotiations post CAS seem inevitable.

G Krishnan however, doesn't see the need for FTA channels to hike their rates. "The important thing is to bring more transparency in the rate structure," he feels.

CAS or no CAS, the time has come to introspect and move up the value chain. Ad agencies must realise that their clients have grown because they had the inclination to take risks and experiment. It is time you guys in ad agencies start doing so too.

Yours faithfully,

Ashwin Kotian

(for indiantelevision.com)





Also read:

Area-wise rollout to soften pay broadcasters ad

CAS - Golden opportunity to go beyond ratings!

'FTA will give eyeballs, pay will provide stickiness'

'Unsung heroes' Regional Cable channels could shine post CAS: MSOs

Partnerships for sharing costs, risks will inspire innovation

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