Hindi GECs unfazed by IPL, general elections

MUMBAI: The first-half of 2019 promises to be a high-octane one with two big events, the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the high-stakes general elections, dominating the media landscape.

The IPL helps its official broadcast to attract millions of viewers while the general elections are a fodder for news channels to increase their viewership share. The two events threaten to disrupt the Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs) who otherwise enjoy a dedicated and loyal audience base.

While the Hindi GECs take the IPL threat very seriously they are not too perturbed by the general elections as the voting and results day matter more than the daily news coverage about the elections.

With IPL too, the Hindi GECs have learned to co-exist. Gone are the days when new show launches would be put on hold during IPL due to the fear of viewership loss. Generally, the IPL leads to a 15-20% viewership drop for the Hindi GECs.

There are many reasons why Hindi GECs are no longer anxious about the IPL. One reason is that the T20 format has lost its novelty factor now that it has entered its twelfth edition. Secondly, the Hindi GECs have a loyal audience base who want their daily dose of serials. It’s a habit that is very tough to break particularly with female audiences.

Even though the Hindi GECs see a drop in viewership that doesn’t mean that the ad revenue also gets impacted. For a lot of non-IPL advertisers, the Hindi GECs are the best vehicle to reach mass audience at an affordable price.

Sony Sab, Pal business head Neeraj Vyas said it is very difficult to assess the impact of IPL on the Hindi GECs this year as the viewership data that is being reported is very volatile due to the TRAI tariff order implementation.

“There wasn’t any dip in viewership beyond 15-20% on all Hindi GECs last year due to IPL. I don’t think so that is going to change this year. Unfortunately, we don’t have any currency to look at because this data is unstable. Having said that, earlier GECs didn’t launch shows and movies were not released during IPL but in the last 4 to 5 years that has changed. That is because the novelty of the format is not the same that it used to be in the first few years. It is now in its twelfth season. Now, one can see many T20 matches,” Vyas elucidated.

He also noted that Hindi GECs are no longer shying away from launching new shows during IPL. Sony Sab is not launching any new shows in the next few months since it has already launched fresh shows at the start of the year.

“We have learned to co-exist with cricket, be it the IPL or world cup or cricket in any form. There is ample scope for eyeballs to co-exist. I don’t see disruption beyond a point. Unfortunately, we are at a stage where data itself is not correct. There is a large space of consumers who come for their fix content every day,” he stated.

Viacom18 Hindi & Kids TV Network Head Nina Elavia Jaipuria asserted that the female audiences continue to watch their favorite shows with or without the IPL.

She said, “Historically, these big tickets events do impact the Hindi GEC viewership. However, we have also seen that while sports and news have been historically skewed towards male audience, the female audience continue to loyally watch their favourite Hindi television shows. The intensity slows down due to these events, but with constant drama and high points, we keep our viewers engaged with intriguing content,” she said.

Colors is trying to retain its viewership through repeat telecast of its prime time shows. Jaipuria said, “With a strong lineup of old and new shows already on the platform, we believe Viacom18 is placed appropriately to protect its market share. Also, if our viewers happen to miss episodes in prime time, non-prime becomes a window for them to catch-up on their shows.”

The channel has also become the principal sponsor of the Mumbai Indians to remain the viewer mind space. “Viewers will see a lot of Colors on-field. Whereas off the field, we have planned integrations between our popular shows and the Mumbai Indians players. With this association, cricket plus entertainment will surely be the flavor for the next few months,” informed Jaipuria.

Giving his take on the clash between IPL/elections and Hindi GECs, BARC India CEO Partho Dasgupta said, “Cricket and Politics are at the pulse of every Indian. It is going to be an exciting year with the General Elections, IPL and Cricket World Cup set to cross paths. These are big ticket events with a huge audience pull as we have seen with previous editions of IPL and multiple state elections. There is bound to be an inflow of viewers from other genres, but that is not to say that other genres will not be viewed at all.”

Dasgupta also pointed out that since India is predominantly a single-TV home market, the viewership time may get split between genres. “But even then, mass genres like Hindi GEC and Movies will continue to enjoy a high share of viewership. Properties like the IPL are also aired on Movie and GEC channels as they provide greater reach. The viewer is evolving, and innovation will be key for advertisers and broadcasters as they try to vie for the viewer’s attention in the coming months.”

According to ZEEL chief growth officer Ashish Sehgal, the Hindi GECs are a key platform for non-IPL advertisers during the crucial summer months. Brands who cannot afford the high-cost IPL take to Hindi GECs to get their share of the voice in the market.

“FMCG brands who can’t afford IPL use GECs to cater to the share of voice that is taken away by IPL advertisers. All the brands that advertise on IPL also increase their spends during this time. It (IPL) doesn’t impact GEC so much from an ad perspective. Usually, the April-June quarter is a good period for TV channels from advertising standpoint. It is next only to the festive quarter,” Sehgal stated.

While admitting that the IPL does take away viewership share from the Hindi GECs, Sehgal believes that the elections will not have a big impact on viewership barring the counting day.

He is of the view that events like IPL and elections bring in extra money as there are new advertisers. He also stated that GECs, news and sports genres have different set of advertisers. He said, “All this is going to bring in more money. GECs have FMCG advertisers; news channels have different kind of advertisers. There are so many advertisers that spend only on IPL. So it brings in extra money.”

He further said, “The overall ratings fluctuates, the brands also have to spend to increase their reach. GEC in comparison with sports is a cheaper genre. People who cannot afford to go for IPL they come on GEC, cinemas and news.”

Sharing her views on the impact on advertisement, Jaipuria stated, “We might not get the big pocket advertisers, who look for one time impact investment but we will definitely get the daily bread butter. We always ensure long term and strategic partnership with our clients to safeguard from any such big events and aim for a win-win situation for all parties involved.”

Dentsu Aegis Network Chairman & CEO South Asia Ashish Bhasin believes that there will be no significant impact on the viewership and ad revenue of Hindi GECs as the events are known to them and they have planned their yearly schedule keeping the events in mind.

He said, “There will be slight impact but it won’t have any significant impact on advertisements on GECs. IPL is an every year event, and the GECs factor this in their every year calculation. So the impact is not too high. Even if we look at elections, they increase the viewership of news channels but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the viewership of GECs decreases significantly. The advertisers will spend where there is viewership, so there might be a slight difference but overall all this is taken care by GECs in the yearly planning or scheduling.”

Agreeing with Bhasin, Havas Media Group CEO India and South East Asia Anita Nayyar said, “With a lot happening in sports and elections there will be some impact on Hindi GECs. It will be more IPL than the news genre which will impact the Hindi GECs. Over the years, we’ve seen a drop in GECs due to IPL impact. However, given the mass viewing of GECs the impact should not be huge.”

According to BARC’s IPL over the years’ report, which analysed the IPL viewership for past three years i.e. 2018, 2017 and 2016, stated that the contribution of IPL to total sports viewership double in 2018 with 43% whereas in 2016 it contributed 22% to the total sports viewership.

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