Day one of the afaqs! 'Television Week' kickstarted yesterday, with an online panel discussion titled 'The COVID Conundrum'.
The second quarter of the current financial year (2020-21) could end up registering a 65 per cent 'de-growth', as compared to the same period last year (2019-20). Such is the impact of the Coronavirus on the television industry. However, will the broadcasters get back on track with marquee events like the Indian Premier League (IPL) and 'Bigg Boss' lined up in the October to March period?
afaqs! has just launched a new initiative, where every month, a week will be dedicated to discussing issues related to a particular industry. The 'Television Week' kickstarted yesterday (Monday, August 24), with a panel discussion titled 'The COVID Conundrum'. It will continue till Friday (August 28).
Former BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta moderated the online session, which was trying to find answers to what's in store in the second half of the year. The panellists included Rajiv Dubey, head of media, Dabur India Ltd; Ashish Sehgal, chief growth officer, ad revenue, ZEE Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL); Shashi Sinha, CEO, IPG Mediabrands India; and Mahesh Shetty, head, network sales, Viacom18.
In his opening remarks, Shetty said that television is one medium that did not lose consumers during lockdown. Print, radio and cinema have all lost their readers, listeners and eyeballs respectively due to the disruption in the ecosystem. "TV added viewers and they are now spending more time watching television."
"The bulk of the advertising money in general entertainment channels (GECs) comes from the FMCG brands. So, their regaining momentum is a good sign for us," added Shetty.
He believes that in the second half of the financial year, Viacom18, as a network, will manage to match last year's number, if not improve, "I don't think it will be negative."
ZEEL's Sehgal said that the second half of the year will be better than last year's ending. He was of the view that the IPL will drive advertisers back to spending money on ads and the entire TV industry will benefit, as a result.
Sehgal added that in India, brands tend to follow each other. So, after a brand launched a hygiene product, many others followed, and Sehgal feels the trend will continue. "Healthcare, as a category, hygiene, gaming… there is a lot of demand for these now, and I see them spending on television."
Dabur recently announced that it is about to launch around 40 products. The FMCG giant advertised on Doordarshan and news channels during lockdowns. It was one of the very few brands which continued to spend on advertising. For a rather 'busy' Dubey, "It is a tough time."
However, he predicts that the brands, as well as the television industry, will head back towards growth in the second half of the year. "Shows like 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa' and 'Bigg Boss', or properties like IPL, will make people feel that everything is all right," said Dubey. He opined that once these properties go on air, people will start gaining confidence and live a close to normal life.
Dabur will be associated with the upcoming edition of 'Bigg Boss' - the Hindi version of 'Big Brother', which will air on Colors.
Viacom18's Shetty defines 'Bigg Boss', which is hosted by renowned Bollywood actor Salman Khan, as 'The IPL of GECs'. Last year, 'Bigg Boss' had a successful outing, both in terms of viewership and revenue.
"Ideally, we would have hiked the rates, but the conditions are not ideal. Yet, we have seen good traction from the advertisers. We are not selling lower than what we did last year for 'Bigg Boss'," said Shetty.
Another issue that the broadcasters might face is the anti-China (brand) sentiments in India. However, IPG's Sinha feels, "This China versus India tussle in the context of advertising on television is overrated." He is of the opinion that once IPL starts, many Chinese brands will advertise, and the friction will ease off. He added that his personal view of Vivo opting out of the IPL has nothing to do with the border tension between the two countries, "but it is something else."
According to Sinha, in the bidding for sponsorship "lies a new hope." The winner of the bid, Dream11, and the other high bidders, like Unacademy and Byju's, are all non-traditional advertisers. "Such brands will emerge and spend more, helping the second half of the year register better numbers."
"India, as an economy, is very much sentiment-driven and small drops of joy is what is needed to rejuvenate it," added Sinha. Like other panellists, he also has high hopes from the IPL, 'Bigg Boss' and the other marquee properties.
While the ad sales numbers at this stage match with what the broadcasters used to get a decade back, the upcoming festive season, along with the IPL, may make the winter better than the subdued Christmas of 2019.
Television Week (August 24-28, 2020) is a webinar series organised by afaqs! and sponsored by Nickelodeon.