Gone are the days when you had to wait for 'Chitrahaar' to quench your thirst for Indian music videos or you were at the mercy of your local radio jockey. Today, one can simply tune in to any of the music streaming services and search for a song and play it. The on-demand consumption behaviour in India is only growing thanks to YouTube and other digital platforms.
'Music' is an important part of India's culture and is one of the most widely consumed formats across the country. In India, music, as content, is delivered through TV, Radio and online platforms like YouTube, Gaana, Hungama et al.
About Rs 600 crores of advertising money is spent on television music and there are over 15 channels fighting for a slice of that pie. 2107 saw the shutdown of two music channels - Star's Channel V and Disney India's Bindass Play. So, is it the beginning of a digital onslaught impacting linear broadcasting or is it too early to draw an App vs TV channel comparison?
Let's have a look at the TV viewership pattern:-
Channel V, which was at about 4 per cent market share before it was defunct, went up to 8 per cent market share, whereas Bindass Play dropped from 4 to 1 per cent before shutting its operations. "When there are so many channels in the genre, the ones at the bottom will need to take such hard calls," says Manav Dhanda, CEO, Sri Adhikari Brothers Group, on the shutdown of the two channels. Neeraj Vyas, SVP and business head Sony Mix and Max Cluster, opines, "These are individual business decisions, we have grown in the past and this year too, we will grow."
The media planning fraternity though sees the emergence of digital as a potential threat to the linear Music broadcast. Anand Chakravarthy, managing partner, Wavemaker India, thinks this is just the beginning. "We will see more and more broadcasters pulling out of pure play music," he says. His assessment is based on the challenging business model of music channels in India, "The cost of running the business versus making money through advertising dollars is a tough-to-sustain business model. The channels pay a premium as royalties to labels like T-Series and others and then they do not have exclusive content either. So, every competitor has the same kind of content and hence, they do not happen to have a very large number of loyal viewers coming in regularly and adding to it, is the growth of Gaana, Saavn and, for that matter, YouTube. The T-Series channel on YouTube is one of the largest in the country..."
Mohit Joshi, managing director, Havas Media Group India, is also on the same page; he feels that today, consumers are impatient when it comes to music consumption. Joshi opines, "Mastiii and Sony Mix might be garnering numbers, but most of it must be coming from tier II and III cities, where the on-demand behaviour is yet to form."
Manav Dhanda has a counter point on the digital growth; he throws in some numbers to make that point, "What makes a super duper hit song on the largest aggregator of consumer-watching video content - YouTube? Any song that gets, say 20 million views? Let's say 25 million views. Now, understand that 25 million views does not mean 25 million eyeballs, it can happen that one consumer has viewed a song 5-6 times. So, the 25 million views must be coming from 10-15 million viewers. And what are 10 million viewers in India? Nothing at all. Our channel, Mastiii, gets about 100 million unique viewers per month, not views. A viewer spends 30 minutes per week on our channel and that's the kind of attention we get..." that's some counter from Dhanda.
Vyas also has a point to make on the similarity criticism; he agrees there is nothing exclusive, but he disagrees that all are same, "What gives you identity is the layout, the tone, the timbre of your channels. The kind of songs that you play and the songs you decide not to play is what differentiates you from the rest. We cover more eras than any other singular music channel; we start with retro in the morning and then go on to the 90s and the 2000s during the day and again, complete retro in the night. The differentiation comes from the packaging and the programming. Yes, it's true that there are some channels that just name slots differently but play the same content again and again."
What about the ad dollars?
When there are so many players tussling it out for the same pie in the TV space itself it's a difficult game to play, agrees, Dhanda. But he says, "The top three are always comfortable."
Anand Chakravarthy explains the position of a music channel in the TV planning mix, "Whenever I am planning on TV, I have certain reach and frequency objectives. I will select a set of channels that deliver high reach and certain channels that will help me build high frequency. Typically, music channels come in the latter," But that's not the end, "The second thing I will look at is what is the affinity of this genre with my target audience. So, for example, if my target is youth from 18-30 (age), then the affinity of music channels tends to be strong, but the affinity of digital platforms like Gaana and Saavn is also very high," Chakravarthy adds.
TV's reach today, is far more, as explained by Dhanda earlier and it has other advantages too, "If I look at it from a cost point of view, from a CPT perspective, Television tends to be way cheaper compared to digital at this stage" further adds Chakravarthy.
Here too, there are some challenges that the traditional medium has to deal with. Chakravarthy continues, "If I look at it from a targeting point of view, my ability to target audience by age or geography is far stronger on digital platforms. Today a YouTube, Gaana or Saavn will allow me to target a specific audience in a specific market, something which a TV channel cannot do."
There are some more advantages that a digital streaming platform can provide, says Mohit Joshi, "Today I can integrate my brand into a song; recently, on Smule, I saw the 'Dairy Milk' track. And people are coming out and recording their own songs on the same track, so the brand is getting so many more ads out of consumers. 'Fair & Lovely' also did something similar and I see more brands moving in that direction," he adds.
Both Chakravarthy and Joshi believe that the ad dollars will move from one medium to the other in the foreseeable future, "Nibbling has already started. India is still a very television driven advertising market and so, it will take some time for it to significantly show on paper," assesses Joshi.
Vyas does not see any nibbling anywhere. "Contrary to popular belief, if you see the overall GRPs that the genre generates, we have grown compared to last year. Digitisation, which got implemented in July (2017), helped the genre and from an advertising point of view, like the entire industry, we had two bumps this year - one due to demonetisation, the other due to GST. Having said so, we think we will grow by 15-20 per cent this year too..." assesses Vyas.
Vyas thinks both streaming applications and TV channels play a common role in popularising music as a genre. TV offers viewers a visual delight, "The song is first discovered on TV and if the song is liked by a consumer, he or she then goes to an app and searches for it or downloads it. Also, these days the songs are shot well and viewers enjoy the cinematic experience. So, I don't think music channels are under any threat."
Like Mastiii, Sony Mix too witnesses a 25-26 minute per user per week time spent. HUL, Emami, Google, Marico, Nestle, Amazon, PepsiCo, Colgate, and Patanjali are the top advertisers on Mix.
Siddhartha Roy, CEO of Hungama.com, is of the opinion that both apps and channels complement each other and they don't necessarily need to eat into each other's pie. He believes that as the country GDP grows, more advertising revenues will be distributed across platforms and all can successfully co-exist.
The pie is the same says, Prashan Agarwal, COO, Gaana.com, "Users have limited time for entertainment and music is a pie out of that. Once a user decides to spend time with music, various channels and services are vying for the same user minutes - essentially the same pie. There will be overall growth in music minutes as well, but most of that will come to streaming platforms due to obvious advantages for the listeners."
It is not only advertising revenue that a platform like Hungama or Gaana is solely dependent on; they have a premium, ad-free offering for which they charge consumers a subscription fee. "The country is now more prepared to pay for content," says Roy. At this stage about 70 per cent of Hungama music's revenue comes from advertisers and 30 per cent comes from subscriptions. "As streaming services penetrate further, more advertising money will come to the platform, so it will always be an advertising-first scenario."
What explains the growth? Is it only rural?
Prashan Agarwal believes multiple factors are driving the growth of streaming platforms in India. "Access to technology in the form of cheaper and better smartphones, accompanied by cheaper and faster data, is at the forefront of driving this change. As more users explore the true joy of music offered by streaming platforms, this trend will continue to accelerate," he says.
While the perception might be that digital is mostly an urban niche, Agarwal is of a contradictory opinion. "It's definitely a mass phenomenon today, in line with mass penetration of smartphones and fast Internet access. We have a very significant chunk of users on Gaana from non-metro cities. That's the reason we have a Gaana app available in nine different Indian languages and editorial curation has a strong vernacular focus as well. Many of our upcoming product innovations like voice search are focused on delivering a frictionless experience to these users," he says.
Roy also has his two bits to share on this, "We see a lot of EDGE consumption happening on the platform. We have various bitrates available for consumers, so if the bandwidth is low, the music plays at a lower bit rate."
Let's hear it from the horse's mouth: Brand's Voice
Mayank Shah, category head, Parle Products, feels different objectives lead to different platforms. He refuses to compare a TV channel with a streaming app, "I think they compete with radio and not TV, at this stage," he says. "If I am looking at building a frequency or reminding consumers of something, we will reach out to a Gaana or Saavn. But If I am launching a product or looking to establish a brand, I will go to an audio-visual medium like a TV channel or YouTube," he adds.
So, is the TV money under any threat due to the digital growth? "Well not really...," Shah says. He agrees that digital is growing and it should see serious spending on the platform, but there are issues that bother him, "This is big money that we are talking about and it's difficult to spend such money on a platform before I know about the efficiency of that platform. So, unless there is a third party measurement body measuring these platforms and the numbers are coming from neutral sources, I don't see digital taking away TV's pie," he adds.
So TV's pie is safe for now, at least the slice that comes from Parle.