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Scattered TV viewers put advertisers in a fix

TV channels are growing, but advertisers – who should be spoilt for choice – are more confused than empowered. A report by Anita Sharan.

business Updated: Sep 03, 2008 21:47 IST
Anita Sharan

TV channels are mushrooming, but advertisers – who should be spoilt for choice – are more confused than empowered.

In the last few years, advertising spends have been steadily rising at around 15 per cent per annum. But that is not enough to accommodate a clutch of new channels, especially in the already crowded Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) space.

Colors, launched in July by the Viacom-Network18 joint venture, is the tenth channel in the already crowded GEC space. NDTV Imagine, a GEC launched last year, is already extending to the all-new Imagine Showbiz, even before it has established itself in its genre. INX Media’s GEC, 9X, also launched last year, has been working very hard to make a mark.

Is the advertiser getting cheaper rates? No. The eyeball-counting has only got tougher.

Media agencies say they are buying more ad time for their clients across programmes and channels. However, they say this is not because of more channels or programmes or higher rates, but because to get the same audience numbers in an increasingly fragmenting viewership scenario, they have to buy more ad time.

“It is true that more people are watching television,” says Shashi Sinha, CEO of media agency Lodestar Universal. “In the last five years, cable and satellite penetration has increased hugely. But the benefit is not really accruing to the advertiser because of viewership fragmentation.”

Chandradeep Mitra, president of media agency Mudra Max, agrees. “Advertisers need more ad spots to deliver the same audiences, so they are even paying more. Although no channel is indispensable today and the increasing clutter does allow us more buying leverage across channels, viewership ratings indicate that numbers across programmes have fallen.”

While peak programme television rating points (TRPs) used to range between 10 and 12 earlier, now it is at four to five on an average. Higher points show lower fragmentation.

Audience Measurement Analytics Ltd.’s (aMap’s) viewership data across channels during the time Colors showed its Bigg Boss reality TV show with a mix of specialised content and promotion through the two-week period of 18-29 August supports Sinha’s observation. Even with the well-watched IPL cricket series on SetMax, average ratings did not exceed 4.2 according to aMap data.

The Beijing Olympics’ opening ceremony, watched by around 1.8 crore Indians, delivered a rating of only 4.6 (aMap). The closing ceremony was watched by 3 crore Indians, delivering probably the highest rating in recent sports and other programmes’. However, there’s no touching the earlier viewership rates any more.