Alokananda Chakraborty

CAS effect: Will allied media gain post July 14?

Print, followed by the outdoor, might be the biggest gainers when conditional access becomes effective

That conditional access will turn the cable and satellite business on its head is frankly quite an understatement. The first few months following the roll-out in the four metros will predictably see a dip in viewership for pay channels with the free-to-air channels gaining at their expense. Little wonder then that the "SAB's and Sahara's of the world" are overjoyed with the government's firm stand to see CAS implemented (that's how a senior executive at a top channel described the conundrum to agencyfaqs!).

"At least in the short run, the free-to-air channels stand to gain with viewership patterns undergoing a sea change," explains a senior media planner based in Mumbai. "To maintain visibility, advertisers could move to free-to-air channels, resulting in their airtime being choc-a-bloc," he adds.

The fallout of this measure is that free-to-air channels could increase their ad rates and pay channels may drop their rates, but will the gap in visibility that is still likely to be felt post July 14 be filled by allied media such as print and outdoor?

"That is a difficult question to answer," states a print media observer. "Much would depend on who will be advertising at that point in time and what is the viewership for pay channels."

If industry sources are to be believed, advertisers are playing a wait-and-watch game. "In my discussions with clients," states an ad sales executive with a free-to-air channel, "many have indicated that they would freeze advertising for a month following the roll-out and then decide their next move."

With the government attempting to allay fears with a series of market-friendly measures - such as reduction of customs duty on set-top boxes and issuing a notification to pay TV broadcasters to declare their pricing by June 10 - media analysts are hopeful that the outcome will be positive. "By December, around 40 to 50 per cent homes in the four metros are estimated to be CAS-connected," states Sundeep Nagpal, managing director, Stratagem Media. "Needless to say, 40 to 50 per cent homes being CAS-connected does not mean that all pay channels will have 40 to 50 per cent connectivity," he adds.

And the crux of the matter is precisely this - with connectivity being a big question mark what could advertisers, who routinely advertise on pay channels, do to bridge the gap or shortfall in visibility?

"First and foremost, they (advertisers) would have to gauge what is the percentage of sales from the four metros," states Nagpal. "Any brand, which is premium, loosely speaking, upmarket, and recent, stands to get affected with conditional access in the four metros."

The options, according to him, are print followed by outdoor, then radio and finally cinema. "Print is foremost," he explains. "In fact, it is a misnomer that print is expensive because when you calculate the cost involved to generate a GRP (gross rating point), it (that is, print) is not very expensive for some brands and product categories."

Jasmin Sohrabji, senior vice-president, MediaCom, however, has a different point of view. "As we see it, typically TV-driven plans will see no such move to other media. They will move to free-to-air channels and DD instead. But, when a significant media initiative is on the cards, advertisers would have to consider allied media," she adds.

Nonetheless, industry sources opine that premium automobiles (including two-wheelers and four-wheelers), upmarket consumer durables such as home theatre systems or frost-free refrigerators, which are TV-dependent, skewed, in particular, to pay channels, may have to look at print in the months following CAS.

Regular FMCG advertisers, which are mass in nature, could stick to television, opting for free-to-air channels SAB and Sahara or "do more outdoor" instead, is the common refrain among planners.

Cellular services, banking, insurance, mutual funds, credit cards and five-star hotels are essentially local in nature in terms of their advertising and would continue to be so, using print for their advertising needs. However, as a planner points out, these categories could be "denied the use of satellite TV, otherwise used for image building". © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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