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Media Review 2009: Of clouds, rains and silver linings

By Sapna Nair , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media | July 20, 2009
Industry stalwarts did a retrospect of the entertainment and media industry, bringing out interesting insights and trends

The theme of the Media Review held in Mumbai on July 17 was apt. Amidst heavy rains, industry stalwarts spoke about how to manage media in order to deliver value proposition to clients and tide through the existing challenges.

Farokh Balsara, Ernst & Young took the audience through the highlights of the year in the media and entertainment industry. He started by hailing the small towns as the heroes, for all the action seemed to be happening there. There was minimal impact of the slowdown in small-town India, and consumption in these towns was growing faster than in the metros. This was also evident in the increasing interest of broadcasters in that part of the country - be it Sony buying Channel 8 or the STAR-Asianet joint venture.

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Balsara pointed out that the print industry had started the year disastrously, but bounced back soon, despite most companies reporting losses in the first quarter of the year.

On television, reality shows and international formats were the order of the day. In media, an increasing number of partnerships and alliances were forged - CNBC and Mint, Mint and Wall Street Journal and ET Now and Reuters.

The distribution landscape saw encouraging changes. There has been increased dependence on subscription for revenues. Zee was a case in point, when its subscription revenue was more than advertising revenue in the fourth quarter of 2008-09.

Three new DTH players entered the market, making India the only country with six DTH players. The penetration of DTH in cable and satellite homes is about 20 per cent. However, although subscription revenues are more than double the advertising revenues, in reality, only Rs 3,500 crore goes to the broadcaster.

The share of online in the total media spends has increased, from 0.8 per cent in 2005 to 2.8 per cent in 2008.

R Gowthaman, leader, Mindshare South Asia was of the opinion that this fastest growing medium needs to be understood and exploited. He also emphasized the need to actively invest and promote research.

Unlike television, which can be tracked on a weekly basis, has its markets in towns and communicates in a one-way environment; digital can be tracked every hour, has a market anywhere and communicates in an engaging environment.

Jasmin Sohrabji, managing director, OMD India took a closer look at the print industry. According to her, the industry has witnessed encouraging trends such as rationalization in terms of size of the newspapers, gender neutral content, in-depth detailed reports and an opportunity to engage in contextual advertising.

Decreasing reliance on the number and frequency of insertions was a positive trend for the industry. Moreover, niche magazines focused on allied activities, creating special interest groups around auto, health, fashion and so on.

Nandini Dias, chief operating officer, Lodestar Universal, gave a clear picture of the television industry. The landscape has changed, from 447 channels in 2008 to 530 in 2009. Cable and satellite homes have grown by 7 million in two years. The overall time spent on the medium, however, has declined by 4 per cent, possibly due to the influence of other media.

Advertising revenues on television have been growing. Companies such as Zee, TV Today and SUN have all recorded growth in the last year. The channel shares, reach, time spent and ratings on DTH platforms have also gone up.

Dias observed that there was a paradigm shift in content, where two trends emerged -- social context, voyeuristic reality and locally adapted international programming. Smaller towns, she said, identified more with "social-tension content preaching moral solutions", while in the metros, audiences preferred voyeuristic reality shows.

Dias drew attention to the need for media planners to raise the bar on creativity and generate opportunities, besides the regular TV spot buys. She said that the average commercial time during IPL was only 4 per cent, while in-stadia, pop-ups and jersey ads dominated. She expressed the need to explore more.

In the weekly war in the general entertainment genre, a steady No. 1 no longer holds true, she said emphatically. "Transient No. 1 may become the norm," she stated.