Media planners see winds of change in advertising trends

Nithya Subramanian

"But FTA channels should be happy with this development as they could see a surge in viewership."

New Delhi, March 13

After the Delhi High Court ordered the implementation of the conditional access system (CAS) in four weeks, the distribution of television channels in India is expected to become fragmented and more complex.

Distribution platforms such as the terrestrial network, free-to-air (FTA) channels through cable, pay channels through an addressable system, free and pay direct-to-home (DTH) services and IPTV available through broadband will compete with each other to find space.

And along with this, changes in the advertising trends are also expected.

According to Mr Atul Phadnis, Chief Evangelist, Media e2e, "The competition between CAS and DTH would be most aggressive in the metros while the other platforms will try to win in other parts of country."

The National Readership Survey 2005 indicated that there are about 9.9 million television homes in the four metros, of which 8.3 million are cable connected.

Mumbai has about 2.9 million cable subscribers; Delhi has 2.2 million, while Kolkata and Chennai have 1.7 million and 1.5 million connections respectively.

However, CAS did not have a great start in Chennai as most of the Tamil pay channels went FTA. So the viewers did not need a set-top box. "But FTA channels should be happy with this development as they could see a surge in viewership and advertising," he added.

Ad spends

Media planners said the advertising revenues especially for pay channels in the short and medium term will be impacted as metros continue to drive bulk of the advertising. "Any change in the existing arrangement could result in changes in the media plans of clients. Ad spends are dependent on viewership patterns and till viewers start buying set-top boxes (STBs) to watch their favourite shows, advertising on such channels would be hurt," said a top media planner.

Set-top boxes

Broadcasters are immediately concerned about the on ground implementation of CAS and whether enough STBs would be available.

"We are in the process of finalising the rates and are looking at both a la-carte and bouquet rates," said a senior official in a pay channel.

Meanwhile, the cable industry has said that it is prepared to roll out CAS and has sufficient boxes to meet the demand.

Sufficient stock

Mr Ashok Mansukhani, Executive Director - Corporate Services, IndusInd Media and Communications said, "There are already 10,000 set-top boxes (STBs) already seeded and we have sufficient boxes to meet the demand."

Though the cable service providers feel that CAS would bring down the monthly subscription bills, it is concerned about its own future. "With two of the three large broadcasters interested in the DTH business, the cable industry could be hurt," said an industry official.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 14, 2006)
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