DD will grow post CAS - say marketing concessionaires

With the conditional access system (CAS) becoming a reality from July 2003, there is a marked increase in the number of marketing concessionaires or agents aggressively pitching for slots and promoting offerings of independent producers on several upcountry Doordarshan (DD) channels. This, despite the fact that DD has appointed a central marketing/buying unit headed by Vijayalakshmi Chabbria to oversee volume discounts.

Beyond regulars like Nimbus, Balaji Telefilms and Mukta Telearts, several new content marketers are now mushrooming across the country. The trend of an increase in the number of marketing concessionaires has been confirmed by several database companies which offer customised media operations, planning and billing packages to ad agencies, publications and broadcasters.

Mediaware Software and Database Services CEO Biswajit Das confirms: "Yes!There has been a marked increase in the number of marketing concessionaires for programmes which are shown on Doordarshan and its upcountry kendras and other cable and satellite broadcasters located in South India. I wouldn't say that there is a steep influx, because only long-term players with commitment and financial backing can survive in the long term in this business. But yes, there is an increase in the number of producers and their marketing representatives."

Ad agencies and media planners prefer to have single-point contacts for multiple programme offerings in the DD kendras (stations) located in different states. They also use these marketing agents to get insights into the psychographics and demographics of the audiences in the interiors.

Players such as Omega Mass Media, Happenings, S&S Advertising, Reasonable Advertising, Universal Communications, Globestar Enterprises, Amaffhha Media, Vibhor Video Vision, Media Dreams, Gaurav Vision are coordinating with all the top advertisers and agencies in the country. Some of them don't even have branch offices across the country but are well known in the marketplace and receive business on a regular basis.

Omega Mass Media markets programmes on DD Trivandrum, DD Chennai (Anju Manju, Oliyum Oliyum), DD Mumbai (Kunku Tikli, Suruchi and Kayam Thappasavar) and DD Hyderabad (Cine Vennela). The company's MD A Hari Haran says, "I have been in business for nearly 12 years and I can predict that DD channels will grow at a fast pace in the next few months. CAS will facilitate the process. However, both DD and C&S (cable and satellite) channels are distinct markets.

"As far as Omega is concerned, we have established a good rapport with advertisers and media planners. But the programme's eventual performance will determine the inflow of advertising. We have got ad support from clients like HLL, Medimix, Dabur, Horlicks and Wipro," adds Hari Haran, who is poised to launch more programmes post the cricket World Cup.

Happenings is another reputed marketing concessionaire which also has another division to handle AOR business for certain clients. It handles programmes for DD Trivandrum/DD Chennai/DD Bangalore/DD Hyderabad/DD Metro/DD National/DD Ahmedabad/DD National/DD Lucknow/DD Bhopal/DD Jalandhar and DD Kolkata. The popular programmes include Jhanjhar, Jhalak, Filmi Deewane and Lashkara amongst others.

Happenings director Harish Shaktawat says: "Mark my words, DD will climb back to the number position in terms of revenues pretty soon within the next two-three years. However, I must say that there is a big communication gap between advertisers, ad/media agencies and the market concessionaires. We prefer going directly to the clients as ad agencies insist on ratings. Personally, I don't believe in TRPs, at least those where the interiors of the country are involved. Also, the media AORs apply tremendous pressure on rates."

A still from DD's programme Aap Beeti

Reasonable Advertising's marketing vice president S A Khan who markets BR TV's serials Aap Beeti (incidentally the top programme on DD with a TVR of 10.19 in all homes 4 years + for 9-15 March 2003) and Vishnupurana says: "DD continues to be popular in small towns beyond metros. Many planners and buyers have become aware of the fact that DD and its affiliate reaches out to several people who have purchasing power."

Universal Communications, a leading content production, distribution and marketing company, has obtained a good response for its new afternoon slot programmes on Doordarshan Trivandrum's DD 4 (Malayalam), DD Chennai and DD Podhigai. The new programmes include Chandrodayam (Malayalam) and Pennurimai (Tamil). "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.

S&S Advertising, a marketing and advertising concessionaire, has bagged several slots in the newly constituted DD kendras in Ranchi, Chandigarh and Hissar (in the state of Haryana). Navi Mumbai based S&S Advertising is one of the few players in the market which has emerged as a single window to a variety of programmes and content offerings aired on Doordarshan (DD) channels in cities such as Lucknow, Bhopal, Patna, Jalandhar, Bhubaneshwar and Jaipur.

S&S proprietor Shruti Agarwal, who left her cosy position as a space marketing manager with a national publication to start her own venture says: "S&S Advertising has tied up with several independent producers. Jointly, we have identified bands on regional DD channels which have a lot of potential and create content to attract viewers and advertisers. With Doordarshan seeking sponsored and commission programmes, the demand for quality vernacular content will definitely go up. And yes, DD will rule!"

The sole concessionaire for Ramanand Sagar's productions, Gaurav Vision director Rekha Chawla says: "Currently Prem Sagar's Aankhe is amongst the top five programmes on DD National in all homes four years plus. We have been handling some of the most popular programmes such as Ramayan, Shri Krishna, Jai Ganga and Alif Laila since their inception. The market seems to be getting better and better."

Globestar Enterprises markets programmes for DD Trivandrum/DD Chennai/DD Bangalore/DD Hyderabad/DD Metro/DD National/DD Ahmedabad/DD National/DD Lucknow/DD Bhopal/DD Jalandhar/DD Kolkata.

Amafhha Media markets programmes for DD Patna/DD Ranchi.

Vibhor Video Vision markets programmes for DD Bhopal/DD National. Media Dreams has Metti Oli and Mettala Savadi on the Sun Network.

During the last three months, however, DD producers and market concessionaires have been complaining that they have been unable to recover money from advertisers who have bought spots on the programmes.

Market sources also claim that DD has become very savvy in its marketing efforts and has increased the valuations of several popular genres. DD charges more money for music based shows. In the case of music-based shows, the producers recover not through advertising but by charging music labels. But the current sad state of music labels has resulted in hesitancy in paying money to air songs on these slots. There is a feeling that DD should have hiked prices some time back when the music industry was booming.

Another case in point is that DD prefers to give top ranking status to producers who pay upto Rs 3,50,000 for a 30-minute slot on the national network in addition to additional spot buys of around Rs 200,000. Several market concessionaires say that this is unreasonable and puts pressure on margins.

Also, several marketing concessionaires have to compete with DD's own central marketing/buying unit headed by Vijayalakshmi Chabbria, which directly negotiates bulk deals with the top advertisers and agencies. This eats into the revenues of the marketing concessionaires and puts added pressure on their margins.

Despite all these issues, several producers are pretty upbeat that DD will rule India in 2003-4 as CAS unfolds. They feel that the C&S channels' exaggerated claims will be unmasked.

A still from Maharathi Karna taken from

Consider for instance, Sanjay Khan's Maharathi Karna which is climbing the popularity charts. DD has also called for bids involving commission programmes based on ancient Indian folk tales and Indian literature. Several media observers feel that DD is making the right moves by seeking to add to its library.

Looks like the C&S pay channels better watch out as DD might actually rise like the proverbial Phoenix!

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