Does the TAM media data released on the first four episodes of Kaun Banega Crorepati - 3 actually reveal that Indian viewers don't fancy Shah Rukh Khan as much as they did Amitabh Bachchan? Or could it be that KBC itself has seen loss of audience interest?
Overall trends in television viewing reveal audience fragmentation, with programmes seeing dilution in viewership numbers. Side by side, the government is aggressively pushing CAS. The two stand to create a combined impact on television advertising.
A media trends study by Mindshare Insights points to audience fragmentation due to expanding media channels and options. Between 1993 and 2006, the number of TV channels rose from 17 to 307 and radio channels from 90 to 364! Publications increased from 303 to 369, theatres from 7,692 to 9,628, multiplex cinemas from 0 to 112, mobile phones from 0 to 100 million, and daily SMSs from 0 to 14 million. Daily web page visits are huge.
The results are: audience fragmentation, shorter attention spans, rising ad clutter on TV, even as programme TRPs fall. Programming experiments have led to an increase in disinterested audiences. The average time spent on TV and the average TVRs - number of viewers on a programme and the time they spend on it - of top programmes on STAR and SUN TV have dropped on a 2003 versus 2006 comparison, finds the Insights survey.
A look at January 2007's TVRs across the first four weeks reveals that other than cable regional channels (average rating 9.22), Star Plus (8.74) and Sun TV (6.80), all other channels had a pretty dismal range of zero to Gemini TVs 4.56. In December 2006, STAR appeared to be losing audience to ZEE.
Vikram Sakhuja, chief operating officer, GroupM, states: "Channels are eating into each other as supply expands. It is not just for Star and Zee, but right across. The problem is with lack of differentiation in mass programming such as soaps and dramas, unlike the American programming that large networks bring. I don't think Ekta Kapoor's serials have such a large differentiation from a smaller producer's."
And then there is CAS. If the viewer sees a soap blanking out due to CAS, she will feel it for sometime but will move on to something else, insists Sakhuja. "It is in these undifferentiated soaps, the opiate of the masses, where 60 per cent of the money is being built - on foundations of sand." The new challenges, he adds, can create a new advertising world order.
Shashi Sinha, CEO, Lodestar Universal, looks at CAS positively. "In the long run, TV will become subscriber-based. The channel will earn subscription money. This will give it space to create its advertising earning strategy. Measurement of audience reach will be better, more accurate. I think that's good."
Sakhuja adds, "If CAS goes aggressive, I'd worry if I were a Star, Zee, Sony. There's huge opportunity for Sahara and DD. We understand addressibility as the potential to change the media order. In the current phase, this can make a national impact of seven to 10 per cent by virtue of blackout of pay channels for mass entertainment. For niche channels - English movies, English news - the impact will be lesser."
But will CAS create a dual audience dilemma for advertisers - between paid-for and free-to-air channel viewers? Nandini Dias, vice president, Lodestar Universal, agrees that duality is possible. "But I think we are at least 18 months away from this. CAS/DTH has to penetrate some more." She adds that media planning in the CAS regime will see new balances emerging. "We are creating checks and balances. For example, TAM will review the progress and modify its panel. Advertising to the CAS/DTH households will be like planning for the Internet."
Sinha expects duality over one-to-three years. "But in the long run, I think, water will find its own level. If the product is good, it will get advertising." Sakhuja agrees. A focus on content on both, the broadcasters' and the advertisers' part, will be key.
Inertia can set in very fast. "Then you need an event like an India-Pakistan cricket match to energise the audience. If I were on the other side, I'd create a TV media vent at all times. Interruption to engagement is so much more the new way to market. Ford's 'Go Fida' theme played on radio recently like a number. The same with Pepsi's 'Oye Bubbly' earlier, making all moments celebrity moments," Sakhuja expands.
Content, music and the stars themselves are a huge opportunity, he says. Lakme Fashion Week has content built around it. Celebrities are content driving brands. "Wheel stood for Smart Sreemati with Raveena Raj Kohli. This saw a 60 per cent audience gain. It's all about starting from brand principles and constructing savviness through programming."
Ultimately, he believes, there's opportunity on content, seasonality. But advertisers should also be willing to pay a premium if their brands can ride the programmes' imagery. "If you want a sponsorship, pay a salience premium. Or maybe an exclusivity-of-target premium. Or CPT (cost per thousand) premium by getting reach relevance. This is where exclusivity of content becomes important."
If I were on the other side, I'd create a TV media vent at all times
- Vikram Sakhuja, COO, GroupM
Under CAS, channels will earn subscription money. This will give them space to create their advertising earning strategies.
- Shashi Sinha, CEO, Lodestar Universal