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Will GECs score big this IPL & festival season?

Both are going to challenge each other, but the scales are tilting in favour of the IPL.

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MUMBAI: 2020 has been a different year, what with the pandemic totally putting things out of kilter for the economy, for business. And it continues to be different even as the festival season comes up in India.

Normally, the fiefdom of India’s general entertainment channels which launch new seasons, and shows to indulge their viewers and attract a large chunk of the advertisers’ dollars and their own annual revenues,  August to November, this year features a party pooper, in the shape of India’s biggest sports extravaganza, the  Indian Premier League (IPL).

Set to take place in the UAE between 19 September and 10 November, the league – which is usually held between April and May every year  – corners close to Rs 2100 odd crore of ad spends and is expected to better those numbers in its 2020 season .

Hence, the question being asked is: will the IPL’s overlap with the festive season lead to  a drop in viewership for the GECs and to advertising dollars being sucked out from them towards the league?

OMD MudraMax EVP & principal partner Navin Kathuria believes that viewers who are looking for refreshing content will find that in the IPL.  Says: ”Due to Covid2019, only 17 per cent of the total sports events took place and that too pre-Covod2019. Secondly, there is a fatigue in viewers due to the plethora of mythological programmes, overdose of Covid2019 news, repeat movies etc.”

He says what will aid its viewership is the fact that majority of the working population will be at home during the IPL as many organisations will not be fully functional or will be working with shortened hours / reduced staff strength / alternate days of the week. “With bars and clubs shut, people will be watching more from home, reading to an  upsurge in home viewing.”

The Media Ant co- founder Samir Chaudhary echoes Kathuria. Says he: “The lines were clearly demarcated that April-May would be for cricket and festive seasons would be for GEC, but as IPL is coming now the viewership of GECs will be impacted.”

“The audience is hungry for IPL and cricket so the performance in terms of ratings could be unprecedented or amongst the best in the recent seasons,” shares regional language network Enter10 chief operating officer Deep Drona.

The belief is that with matches scheduled at 3:30 pm and then at 7:30 pm, single TV homes – of which India has a majority – will opt for the IPL, with GEC shows being watched between the match breaks or viewers tuning into them when the matches end.

Zee TV business head Aparna Bhosle does not support this viewpoint.

According to her, Hindi GECs have over many years has managed to sustain viewership and even grow despite the IPL. She says, “Long running fiction or non-fiction shows have, by and large, not seen an adverse impact on viewership due to existing fan bases and the loyalty channels’ command in terms of appointment viewership.”

She further adds: “The viewership of television has increased by 34 per cent during lockdown. There is a growth of 10 per cent in average daily reach as well as 22 per cent growth in average daily time spent. (Source: BARC| 2+| HSM (U+R)| Wk 12-20’20 vs Wk 1-11’20). With the best of content across our primetime, we want to ensure that our shows act as a great binder that brings families together during this period of social distancing.”

In fact, so confident is she of it being business as usual, that Zee TV is gearing up to premiere four big-ticket family targeted shows during the festive season.

Ditto with the Enter10 network. It is planning to have a robust line up starting from the end of August until November end with a slew of original new series planned.

Estimates are that marketers signed checks to the tune of Rs 24,000 crore during the festival period last year. The pandemic and the lockdowns over the past six months have resulted in Indian advertising expenditure shrinking by as much as 39 per cent over last year. Soothsayers predict that 2019’s festival adex of Rs 24,000 crore will not be breached this year. 

Not everyone agrees. Havas Media CEO Mohit Joshi says, “There has been a revival of sorts from June, July with spends going up gradually. We expect brands to press the accelerator pedal in September-October-November.”

Drona believes the fact that the IPL and GEC launches are coinciding, will lead to an overall expansion of the ad pie in the festive season, benefiting both. According to him spending has been subdued for a large part of the year, and this will be the time when it will be all systems go for categories such as FMCGs, ecommerce sites, gaming platforms, the OTT sector and what have you. “Yes, there will be a scramble for marketing and ad budgets but that will lead to a growth in the overall spends,” he added.

Chaudhary points out that may not come to be true as budgets have been slashed and with smaller budgets, advertisers would prefer to park it with a big bang event. Says he: “Disney Star India has priced its spots at Rs 10-15 lakh per 10 seconds. Only the big companies can afford these price points. So they will mostly park their spots with the IPL, leaving aside smaller spends for the GECs.”

Will the GECs then be forced to shave their FCT and sponsorship rates? Kathuria would like to wait and watch. “Normally, GECs don’t discount big properties,” he says. “The challenge they face is that consumer sentiment has been subdued due to Covid2019 and it has impacted consumer spends. And hence the propensity by brands to spend big.”

Clearly, for both the IPL and GECs, the festival season 2020 is bringing with it interesting and testing times.

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