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Will FTA channels attract top ad dollars with BARC’s rural rollout?

MUMBAI: The release of the rural
viewership data by BARC India has
reinforced the belief that the free-
to-air (FTA) channels enjoy good
traction in rural India. While so far
the ad agencies and broadcasters have
been doing deals with these channels
based on guesstimates, now there is a
currency to trade.
Although it has just been one week
that BARC India came up with all-
India (urban+ rural) data and
although it will take some time before
the industry starts trading on BARC
data, a quick glance at the first
week’s data shows that FTA channels
are in for a windfall.
The biggest genre, Hindi general
entertainment, has seen the biggest
change with all the three FTA
channels from big networks as well as
public broadcaster DD National making
an entry in the top 10. The biggest
surprise of this was Zee Anmol, which
even raced ahead of the flagship brand
Zee TV to clinch the third spot in the
TelevisionPost.com did a quick dipstick
across broadcasters and agencies to
gauge their first reaction and to see
if they feel that FTA channels are
indeed going to come out as winners.
“FTA channels will get better
viewership in rural was expected, but
Zee Anmol has done exceedingly well,
which is the biggest surprise. One can
expect a rate revision there and the
channel should get better revenues
now,” said a top media agency
He added that if Zee TV had done well,
it would not have helped the company
much as that would not be a surprise.
“Had Zee TV got that increase, they
wouldn’t have been able to monetise
it, but Zee Anmol would definitely be
able to,” he added.
When asked if Zee Anmol would be able
to command the pricing, Zee
Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL)
chief sales officer Ashish Sehgal
stated, “With rural, the overall
viewership of Zee Anmol has seen a
jump. But it needs to be seen whether
an advertiser is willing to pay me an
equal price for Zee TV and Zee Anmol,
or would he differentiate between the
two. That’s the question everybody
will have to answer.”
Incidentally, in a recent interview,
when asked what kind of growth he
sees from Zee Anmol in FY16, Sehgal
had told TelevisionPost.com, “We
expect Zee Anmol to grow at least by
25 per cent over the previous year.
After digitisation, new markets have
emerged and the viewership of FTA
channels is increasing.”
The FTA channels including Zee Anmol,
Star Utsav and Viacom18’s Rishtey
mainly play repeat content from
network channels and rarely have
original programming. However, as
they are available on DD Freedhish
platform in the cable-dark areas, the
programming do have a novelty factor
for the rural audiences.
“These channels are anyway like
introductory programming to the
rural market so it is very evident that
their ratings will jump and whatever
advertising they were getting so far
was not on the basis of their current
ratings but on the basis of the
assumption that they are doing very
well in rural. This (rural rollout) kind
of reaffirms that assumption, but of
course this is just one week of data.
We need to see stability and across 13
weeks of data,” said Helios Media
managing director Divya
Radhakrishnan, who also pointed out
that the ratings reaffirm the
hypothesis that Zee Anmol and other
such FTA channels are primarily meant
for rural audiences.
In fact, as FTA GECs, these channels
get a huge reach in the rural and
terrestrial markets.
Incidentally, Star India, which had a
great run with FTA channel Star Utsav
until Zee Anmol was launched, had
decided to turn Utsav into a pay
channel starting August. However, it
took a U-turn from its earlier
announced strategy and put off its
plans to turn pay.
In an earlier interaction, Star India
COO Sanjay Gupta had told
TelevisionPost.com that as an FTA
channel Star Utsav is doing quite well
in the Hindi heartland. “Star Utsav
requires a lot of focus and attention
because a large number of advertisers
are keen to talk to those consumers.”
On the content part, Sanjay Gupta had
also added that repeat is a very wrong
word for the content that Star Utsav
provided. “I think there is no
difference between Star World and
Star Utsav. Star World also repeats
content. But Star World’s content is
new to us Indians and Star Utsav’s is
not. For many viewers who do not
have access to Star Plus or Life OK,
Star Utsav offers fresh content. In a
sense, therefore, Star Utsav is the
Star World of India,” he had said.
However, on whether advertisers will
lap up to the idea of spending big
moolah on FTA channels, Multi Screen
Media (MSM) president, network sales,
licensing and telephony Rohit Gupta
said that it is too early and one would
need to evaluate the data on different
parameters. “We will have to see from
an advertiser’s perspective what data
they are eventually going to start
using. We will need to see whether
the brands will use rural data or urban
or both,” Gupta said.
On FTAs gaining big, he said that
eventually it was expected. “FTA gain
was very obvious. But it all depends on
how much weightage advertisers want
to give to the rural data. Each
brand’s TG is very different. Not
every brand needs rural. Therefore,
we will have to see for which brand
urban is important and for which brand
rural. There will be brands for which
both will be important.”
Radhakrishnan further explained, “It
depends on the brand you are working
on. If you are working on a brand
which is distributed in the rural
markets, you will have to make sure
your plans are aligned in terms of
what the ratings are, but if you are
working on a brand where rural
ratings don’t matter, it’s OK. For
example, the channel we are handling
Living Foodz, MTunes, Epic, etc. are
all HD lifestyle channels and are not
meant for rural audiences. But
Bengali music channel Music F
Fatafati has done very well in Bengal
and has picked up well with the rural

Impact on DD

It is not just the private FTA
channels but Prasar Bharati-owned DD
National has also seen a big jump and
has entered in the top 10 league.
Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar
proudly told TelevisionPost.com that
the ratings prove that Doordarshan
viewers watch it for the maximum
time. “DD National has the maximum
time spent across GECs,” he said.
DD National registered an average
time spent of 51 minute per viewer in
Week 41.
However, this was also because of the
fact that DD National aired India vs
South Africa cricket match owing to
the ‘mandatory sharing’ rule for
sports of national importance.
“DD National gained because of the
India vs South Africa cricket match
and that is what propelled it. But
they are strong in rural so we need to
see what happens from next week
onwards,” Radhakrishnan added.

So when will industry start trading on
BARC data?

The industry is unanimous on the fact
that BARC is the currency going
forward and while it may take a few
more weeks before the panels settle
down, trading will soon start based on
BARC data.
Dentsu Aegis Network chairman and
CEO South Asia Ashish Bhasin said, “It
is definitely good to have rural
ratings, because for the first time we
are getting the idea of the country as
a whole, what the country watches.
So far it was based on guesswork and
“But we should not overreact based on
one week’s data. I guess in the
coming few months trading will start
on BARC data. There is no other
currency. Any new rating system
needs some time to settle down and I
think given the concerns, BARC has
done a very good job to address many
of those issues. There are always
areas of improvement, but I am sure
BARC is working actively towards
addressing those. Overall, the level of
confidence in BARC as a currency is
high because of the simple fact that it
is co-owned by all the key holders,”
Bhasin added.
“Trading should take another 4–5
weeks because one needs to see the
stability of data. I guess the buys for
December or maybe the next calendar
year will get impacted because of
rural,” added Radhakrishnan.

Will FTA channels attract top ad dollars with BARC’s rural rollout?

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