In the stand-off between advertisers and broadcasters, the use of TAM viewership numbers has always been crucial. The latest argument began when a few broadcasters asked TAM to release monthly data, 'based on a unilateral decision' as defined by the advertisers. As the advertisers (spenders) felt that they weren't a part of this decision and weren't satisfied with TAM going monthly, they threatened to pull-out ads from channels, which include nine big networks.
The southern markets including Karnataka, Pondicherry, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh contribute over 22 per cent to the nation's GDP, as per the McKinsey India Report on sustenance of South India's growth momentum. Then, why is it that the regions where people spend significantly more time on watching television are not being analysed amidst the imbroglio?
Media owners and experts reveal that despite the virtual war in the North, it is business as usual in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. When asked about cancellations in advertising, a senior official from a Kannada language channel smirks, "The channels owned by the national players have received some requests. However, for others, none has requested for monthly data and hence, no effect on the advertising." Also, most media persons suggest that the advertisements can be cancelled only after the month of July, since release-orders for the month of July are already in place.
Zee owns Zee Tamil, Zee Telugu and Zee Kannada in the said market, while STAR India has seven channels in the South, including STAR Vijay, Suvarna, Suvarna Plus, Asianet, Asianet Movies, Asianet Sitara and Asianet Plus. Viacom18 has ETV Kannada in Karnataka and MSM has no representation in the market. Being a part of the bigger national stables, these channels are currently receiving monthly TAM data.
Sun TV, with 32 channels in the four states, hasn't opted for monthly data.
A highly placed official at Sun Network says, "If ads are withdrawn from any of these channels, these budgets might get shifted to Sun Network channels." It is pertinent to note that the biggest player in the southern market, Sun TV, hasn't reacted to any of these controversies.
According to authorities on the southern market, every state in the region behaves differently. One of the important reasons for this market to remain unaffected by the controversy is that the channels owned by the national players account for less than 35 per cent share, considering all the four states.
For the record, among the four states , Tamil Nadu is the biggest in terms of television advertising revenues (Rs 1000-1200 crore), while Andhra Pradesh stands next at about Rs 800 crore. Both Kerala and Karnataka markets are estimated at Rs 500 crore.
On the basis of estimates, Sun holds close to 75 per cent share in Tamil Nadu. In Andhra Pradesh, ETV Telugu, Maa TV and Gemini TV have almost equal shares; none of these are a part of any national network. However, in Kerala, STAR India's Asianet owns about 60 per cent market share, making it a clear leader. In Karnataka, Udaya TV (Sun Network) is on top, whereas Suvarna (STAR India) and Zee Kannada together grab close to 25 per cent share in the market.
While almost everyone agrees that it is business as usual in the southern markets, a few believe that the monthly data issue will affect the market in the longer run.
Sanjay Reddy, managing director, Dreamboat Entertainment explains that weekly data is very crucial for the business. "Even the producers tweak storylines based on the weekly viewership figures. If the market has to run on monthly data, it will be very late to react to the audience affinity towards a kind of content," he adds.
Also, the channels depend on local advertisers and this dependence is very much mutual. Moreover, unlike the national players, smaller advertisers aren't obsessed by TAM data. As gut feel plays a very important role, these advertisers don't strictly depend on TAM data for their planning. This is largely because the four states work differently and the local advertiser clearly understands the ranking/performance of the various players (channels) in each state/region.
A media planner based in Chennai also suggests that there are a few clients based in South India (mainly jewellery brands) who also advertise on national channels. For them, the data becomes crucial. Among the national advertisers, FMCG products and financial services are large spenders in southern markets.
Manohar K, head of promotions at ETV Telugu, suggests that the real picture will be visible in a matter of four weeks. "We haven't received any cancellations of ads, neither is there any negative response for other networks."
Shankar B of Fourth Dimensions Media (an ad-sales agency in the region) suggests that after the implementation of the 12-minute ad-cap, almost every channel will have to increase ad rates by 30 per cent to maintain revenues. "Even though Onam and other festivals are on their way and the advertising for the same starts around this time, it'll be a Herculean task to convince the advertisers about the increased costs."