Anindita Sarkar

TV.NXT 2011: Single TV household... a curse on the Indian TV industry?

The idea of more than a single TV household is yet to seep into a media analyst's analysis in India, thereby leading to the most profound question, 'How do broadcasters cope with it?' And, this is what fuelled the panel toward one of the most insightful discussions on the second day of TV.NEXT.

The Indian television sector is currently pegged at an approximate Rs 34,000 crore, and is estimated to serve as many as 700 million viewers. And yet, in spite of riding on such big numbers, there is always the accusation of television programming being very limited; that broadcasters do not get the chance to monetise their products well enough. And, while the reasons to these limitations are many, the role of the single TV household seems to play the biggest tyrant in restraining the growth of the overall television business.

This is what fuelled the thoughts and arguments of the first panel discussion 'The tyranny of the single TV home', on the second day of TV.NEXT, a broadcasting event organised by afaqs!

TV.NXT 2011: Single TV household... a curse on the Indian TV industry?
TV.NXT 2011: Single TV household... a curse on the Indian TV industry?
TV.NXT 2011: Single TV household... a curse on the Indian TV industry?
TV.NXT 2011: Single TV household... a curse on the Indian TV industry?
TV.NXT 2011: Single TV household... a curse on the Indian TV industry?
TV.NXT 2011: Single TV household... a curse on the Indian TV industry?
Moderator of the session Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, consulting editor, Business Standard, threw open the discussion by arguing that the primary reason behind limiting the growth of programming opportunities, variety and monetisation capability of the Indian TV industry was single TV households. "Barely 6 per cent of the 142 million households house more than one television. And therefore, broadcasters are consistently targeting the entire family, leading to lesser programming variety. This in turn, limits monetisation capabilities, programming variety, and thus, scale. Yet, single TV households are not discussed much," she said.

She noted that the idea of more than a single TV household is yet to seep into a media analyst's analysis in India, thereby leading to the most profound question, 'How do broadcasters cope with it?'

Kohli-Khandekar posed the question to Farshad Family, managing director, Nielsen Media - India, The Nielsen Company. The other panellists for the session included Monica Tata, general manager, Entertainment Networks, South Asia, Turner International India, Seema Mohapatra, regional director, South Asia, BBC Worldwide, Shruti Bajpai, country manager, South Asia, HBO Asia, and Ravi Rao, leader - team Unilever South Asia at MindShare.

Family noted that while the numbers are small today in India, the emergence of digital and other screens within the Indian households will very soon propel the television industry growth. Mostly importantly, tablets will have a significant impact on how media will be consumed in Indian homes, he noted.

He explained, "This is because, tablets are going to get personalised." Elaborating further, he stated that the factors influencing the tablet's growth would be a fall in the price of tablets which is dropping quickly and will continue to drop further.

"There will come a time when everyone will get used to the idea of a personal tablet with a screen big enough that will be conducive to seeing content beyond television. We are already seeing that happening. Six lakh-seven lakh smart phones are being sold every month; android has had a huge impact; there will be others screens that will pop up in the homes and will affect media to a great extent," he said.

He was optimistic that just like in the earlier days when India had leapfrogged technologies, the country will once again leapfrog -- maybe from personal computer screens to mobile screens directly.

But, while the panel was positive that multiple and interactive screens would pave the growth path of the Indian broadcasters, the real question that remained constant was 'why does the single TV phenomenon after all, happen in India'? When quizzed by Kohli-Khandekar, Family reasoned, "This is because there is a tradition that Indian families watch television together. But, technology is changing and this trend too, will change with time."

Adding to Family's statement, Tata noted that the whole concept of TV viewing in India is based on the thought that 'the family that watches TV together stays together'. Secondly, it's a very highly involved decision-making process to buy a second television in this country. The breadwinners find more sense in investing in a washing machine than a second TV, she reasoned. "Today, the broadcaster's point of view is that if you can't beat them join them. Therefore, content creation becomes adaptive and family inclusive. And, while we want more and more TVs to come up, I think that will happen in respect to different forms of screens instead of the entry of a second television in the household," she said.

Tata noted that India is already seeing that trend taking place today. Television is almost redundant for many young audiences today who prefer to consume content online, on mobile, and so on. "Today, we as broadcasters, create content that is multi-platform. The challenge therefore, is to adapt to the reality and add content to other platforms that are growing and will grow," she added.

Mohapatra said that while tradition limits the rise of multiple TV households, the idea of not giving children the remote because parents want to control their child, also limits the growth. "Therefore, in India, it's more about social reasons than business reasons that limits the multiple television home growth," she said.

Also, technological advancements, such as DTH and their advertisements too, do not advocate the idea of buying a new TV. For example, DTH ads talk about recording content, not about buying a separate TV set, she elaborated.

"In fact, TV sales have gone down by 2 per cent because people are viewing content on other platforms. It's also about economy. And, broadcasters are also not pushing for more number of TVs in households," she said.

Bajpai, however, had a different opinion. She believes that the number of multiple TV households is much higher than what is actually reported, at least in urban India. And, DTH has surely propagated this growth. There are a lot of promos that talk about a second connection, and the costs of getting them are really coming down. "The cost of television also is coming down. So, there is no doubt that we will get into the multi-TV homes," she said.

TV.NXT 2011: Single TV household... a curse on the Indian TV industry?
She further noted that there are certain genres that can benefit from single TV screens such as the kids genre because it brings in adult viewership. But, for a movie genre there would be challenges because a lot of content though good, does not bring in the ratings. This is because a lot of internet downloads happen for such content and people would have already seen them on the internet.

As the panel progressed, Rao made two very important observations. Firstly, multiple TV homes will increase the viewership of niche channels, whether sports or movies. Explaining, he said, "Look at the composition of Indian families. They range from baby boomers to gen X. This brings in a distinction, so this brings in a real benefit to advertisers in the niche segment."

Secondly, multiple TV homes are better because in India there is a huge fragmentation of audiences. "When compared to five years back, to reach the same set of people today, we have to spend 35 per cent more than what we spent earlier. The evolution of new screens including TV will help advertisers optimise their investments from the planning point of view," believes Rao.

Taking the discussion forward, Kohli-Khandekar questioned, "Does it seem that the purchasing power has an effect on the psyche of the consumers? That only the SEC A can afford it? And, is it at a stage of evolution when all these things will change, and if so, when?"

Mohapatra answered, "Yes, the consumer's psyche works that way. When it comes to devices, it's very individualistic, while for TV, it is completely family-driven, but will change and right now it is at the tipping point. Therefore, broadcasters want to move to multi-screens for interactivity."

Tata, meanwhile, had a very interesting take. According to her, India could miss the multiple TV households and directly leapfrog to multiple screens. Therefore, the challenge will be to move from creating content only for TV, to creating content for all platforms. And, the challenge then would be to optimise and monetise the digital platforms. However, the consumption of English entertainment on newer platforms is limiting at this stage.

"The opportunity for multiple TV households lies in Hindi general entertainment. Because the scope of women belonging to the 35-year-olds and beyond -- who form the core audience of the Hindi GE space -- going onto newer media platforms for content engagement is quite less," she said.

So, would this mean that Hindi general entertainment viewership would eventually increase, asked Kohli-Khandekar.

The argument indisputably brought in the question of measurability -- whether with the increase TV sets, the increase in viewership would be measured or not?

The panel was at a consensus that the research companies would have to create a research environment that would help broadcaster's monetise on multiple TV households.

Family noted that various markets including the US pushed the use of set-top-boxes and corporate PC viewership into ratings in order to handle the issues of measurability.

"The demographics of India are different. India is really young and is adapting to the technological changes very fast. It's adding millions of users every month. The effects of this will start showing by 2012-2013; we will come to know how media is consumed in India," he said.

(TV.NXT is organised by afaqs!, in association with STAR News (presenting sponsor). The other sponsors include Zee 24 Ghante Chhattisgarh, Amagi, HeadHonchos,, Fox History & Traveller, and Lukup. TV.NXT was held at J W Marriot, Mumbai, on September 29-30, 2011.)

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