Guest Article: Nikhil Rangnekar: Small towns, big deals

By Nikhil Rangnekar , New Delhi | In Media | June 12, 2013
The importance of LC1 markets in overall media plans can no longer be ignored, with emerging data revealing new facts.


There was a time when Indians viewed television only for prime time news, weekend specials like Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the Hindi movie on Sunday evening. A few fortunate people owned a television set, and were kind enough to let their neighbours watch special programmes in their house. Advertising on TV was such a breeze back then. Fast-forward a few decades, and the story is rather unwieldy. Habits are changing fast!

To keep up with the times, TAM Media Research, that measures TV viewership, has again changed the rules of the game by including Less than Class 1 (LC1) (under 1 lakh population) towns in its survey, since 2009. The growing consumer base in small town India is the focus of a lot of marketing initiatives. Nobody can say they've cracked the formula for television advertising in these markets as yet.

Earlier, marketers and industry players often criticised TAM for having a very narrow sample to represent television ratings. To counter it, the organisation has come up with a formula that represents Indian TV habits more comprehensively. In January 2013, TAM included a whole new set of towns across five regions - Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (including Uttaranchal), Rajasthan and PHCHP (Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh), besides Maharashtra. Now, TAM covers 92 per cent of the urban Hindi speaking markets (HSM), from the earlier 74 per cent. The five new LC1 markets carry 20 per cent weight in the new HSM universe, among which Uttar Pradesh (UP) LC1 has the maximum weight.

This has caused a disruption in the so-far confident functioning of the TV ratings. The survey reveals habits of viewers that are nothing like their counterparts in larger cities, to which the TAM people meters were limited to until recently. Yet surprisingly, there has been hardly any talk about these numbers.

It has been four months, and no significant analysis has been put out using this mine of information. The ongoing digitisation in metros seems to have drawn all the attention of the advertising and marketing fraternity in recent times and as a result, no major initiatives have been taken using this information on the lower town classes. This article is an attempt to shed some light on the TV viewership behaviour in small town India.

A closer look at the data and some of the conclusions reveal interesting perspectives.

Data doesn't reveal that power cuts in LC1s cause lower viewership:


There is no doubt that small town India, or for that matter most of India, is reeling under heavy power cuts. Marketers are under the assumption that poor infrastructure and power cuts lead to viewership going down according to the data presented. Since power cuts are more prevalent in smaller towns, TV viewership should automatically be lower.

However, looking at the LC1 data by TAM, other than UP, which shows some difference between the LC1 markets and the rest of the state, all other LC1 markets are virtually at par with the rest of the state. This is especially true during prime time, which is the key viewership time band. The evidence is not strong enough to indicate that massive power cuts are causing lower viewership. For marketers focusing on UP as a key market, a detailed analysis is needed to make the required changes in their plans since prime time TV is likely to deliver significantly lower numbers as compared to other states.


Media planning with HSM lens may not work for LC1 markets:

The TAM data reveals that other than UP, Star Plus is the leader across all LC1 markets. This could make it an obvious choice for a high reach campaign. However, a movie channel like Zee Cinema, which would normally figure as the 7th or 8th channel when analysed at a HSM level, has a much higher share in the LCI markets than a general entertainment channel (GEC) like Sony, and is ranked at No. 4. When looking at channel selection with respect to a focus on LCI, channels like STAR Utsav could be a part of the mix. STAR Utsav usually ranks 14th-15th when analysed at a north-west market level. An obvious inference is that Star Plus and Zee Cinema are safe bets in LC1 markets.

A combination of two-three GECs based on the key markets and two top movie channels would ensure high coverage in LCI. Such a combination could garner more efficient GRPs and reach than a plan which has a very high investment on all the top four-five GECs and low presence on movies. It must, however, be noted that the deliveries need to be balanced depending on market priorities.


Advertisers need to look at genres other than General Entertainment, Movies and Music:

GECs (Hindi) and Hindi movies are key genres included in a plan to ensure the delivery objectives for each state in North and West. Apart from the two key genres, Music and Hindi News also help build reach in these markets. News, however is still a genre which is usually included only when the main TG is males.

In order to build reach beyond GEC, Hindi Movies and Music, it is worth looking at the data.


In the PHCHP market, the combined share of the three genres - Entertainment, Movies and Music - is the lowest. This is mainly due to the under performance of Hindi Movies (16 per cent share). The top three movie channels (Zee Cinema + Gold + Max), which contribute anywhere between 14-17 per cent of the share in the LC1 markets, only have a 10 per cent combined share in PHCHP. This is one of the main reasons why the tasks of optimising reach for PHCHP is quite a challenge using only the Hindi channels. Here, the inclusion of Punjabi channels to the plan becomes important for the market. However, this is not the case for all markets.

Regional channels are not always better than national channels in LC1 markets.

In UP, the shares of the regional channels in LC1 is far lower compared to the 0.1-1mn and 1mn+ markets. It has been deduced that the regional channels in the state mainly cater to the bigger towns. While Punjabi and Gujarati channels cater almost equally to all the sub-markets within the state, in MP and Rajasthan, regional channels deliver slightly higher in the LC1 markets. Given that UP has the highest representation among HSM markets, for a brand with a deep focus on smaller towns in UP, national channels actually prove more important.


Cable channels are an option worth exploring for advertisers as compared to regional TV in LC1s:


Cable is still dominant in some of the LC1 markets. In PHCHP, the share of cable is at par with that of regional channels, and can hence be used to supplement the regional channels. In Gujarat, the share of cable is almost four times that of the regional channels, again a case for inclusion. Coming back to UP, the market where regional TV is still not strong enough, cable advertising could certainly add to the reach generated by Hindi channels.

These are but just a few top line findings from the TAM data that now includes towns with under a lakh population to give a wider representation to the TV audiences. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. One must acknowledge now that LC1 markets are important and there is robust data available for these markets, at least for states in the North and West. This makes it all the more necessary to track and address this data. Advertisers must start looking at this data as part of their overall media plans and make full use of this mine of rich information.

** TG used - C& S M/F 15+ ABCD/E

Nikhil Rangnekar is CEO of Spatial Access. Rangnekar was formerly associated with Starcom Worldwide as executive director, West, India.