Global media specialist Zenith Optimedia recently forecast that in the tough days ahead, advertisers will return to the familiarity and brand-building power of television, giving it a record 38.3% share of the global ad expenditure in 2009, which will rise to 38.5% in 2010 and 2011.
But while the blockbuster reach of TV is undeniable, the proliferation of channels in India continues to fragment audiences—a challenge that engages media buyers now more than ever.
Viewership ratings for top programmes continue to slide every year and I was intrigued to read reports on how one cricket series last year averaged a viewership of 2.7 television viewership rating, or TVR, points—the proportion of the potential TV audience that watches a programme. The finals of a big reality show also recorded similar viewership.
The numbers are a far cry from the days of game show Kaun Banega Crorepati, or KBC, which garnered nearly 20 TVR points. This is bad news for advertisers looking to reach the masses.
Raj Nayak, chief executive of NDTV Media Ltd, tells me it would be unfair to comment on the efficacy of TV as a medium based purely on TVR data.
For one, the number of cable and satellite households have grown almost three times in the last eight years. “No other mass medium in India has grown so significantly in this period,” he points out.
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Media specialists, however, disagree with Nayak and say the viewership of top programmes has been dropping significantly: programme ratings have been falling at a faster rate than the increase in cable and satellite households.
While television is still the most cost-efficient ad medium in terms of cost per contact, its relative cost efficiency is dropping significantly even if television-owning households have increased, says Sam Balsara, chairman, Madison Group.
He recalls how eight spots across four weeks on the weekly Mahabharat show helped Cinthol Lime get a 5.3% share of the premium soap market since the epic’s viewership was an astounding 60-70 TVR points.
Of course, those were the simpler times of 1989 when the number of television homes was much lower. When the Cinthol brand franchise was recently relaunched, thousands of spots could not make the same impact as those Mahabharat spots did, adds Balsara.
In 2008, the cost effectiveness of this ad medium seems to have been particularly impacted. A Lintas Media Group, or LMG, study states that in 2008, both cost per thousand, or CPT, and cost per rating point, or CPRP, “went up drastically due to rate revisions and viewership fragmentation”. Yes, advertisers had to pay more to reach a thousand people or for each viewership rating point.
The decline in ratings has been evident since 2007, says Lynn De Souza, chairman and chief executive officer, LMG. She cites how Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hain? didn’t do as well as expected and KBC 3 performed much worse than KBC 2 and KBC 1 as far as ratings go.
Also, cricket ratings, which used to be in the 20s, now at best touch 11 or 12. Chandradeep Mitra, president at media specialist Mudra Max, illustrates how top programme ratings have shrunk over the past five years. Average TVR of the top 10 programmes were: 7 in 2004, 6.2 in 2005, 4.6 in 2006 and 3 in 2007. In 2008 till week 48, the average TVR score of the top 10 programmes was a desultory 1.5.
Viewership of individual top programmes similarly dipped: TVR of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi on Star Plus in 2004 was 19.5. In 2005, KBC 2 on Star Plus was 19.8. In 2006, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki on Star Plus was 15.5. In 2007, KBC 3 on Star Plus was 12.3. In 2008, Bidaai on Star Plus scored 8.8, cites Mitra.
His point: While the number of television and cable and satellite households has been growing, programme TVRs have been falling at a faster rate, clearly due to fragmentation. Hence, even when there hasn’t been major inflation in television advertising rates, the cost efficiency of television as an ad medium is coming down both on CPRP and CPT basis.
“However, it still easily remains more cost-effective than other mediums on a cost per contact basis for large national mass brands,” he says, “It also has additional advantages of helping build salience faster and image better than other media.”
For advertisers, declining viewership of programmes is compounded by the fact that all that is advertised is not necessarily watched.
The overall time spent viewing television and ad spots on the medium have risen but average weekly ad exposure per head remains static at 337 seconds in 2007 and 336 in 2008, notes the LMG study.
In all fairness though, any comparison of viewership, past and present, must consider the fact that audience measurement systems have also undergone changes in sampling and methodology, among others.
Expect advertisers to push for a relook at the way viewership ratings are captured and ads are bought this year—a topic for next week’s column.
Marion Arathoon is Mint’s advertising editor. Your comments are welcome at email@example.com