New Delhi/ Mumbai: With the cricket World Cup and the Indian Premier League (IPL) taking up three months, viewership and advertising revenues of general entertainment channels (GECs) are under pressure.
The Hindi entertainment genre’s market share declined from nearly 30% to 27% between the last week of January and the third week of February, when the World Cup began. Market share for sports channels grew about 4% in that period, show data by TAM Media Research.
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That’s not all. Gross rating points (GRPs) of the top four Hindi entertainment channels—Star Plus, Zee Entertainment, Colors and Sony—declined by 15-30 points.
GRP is the total of television rating points, or TRPs, which is the percentage of people watching a programme at a given time.
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In a recent media sector update, Emkay Global Financial Services Ltd said general entertainment “broadcasting would have pressure on the ad revenues as a major portion of ad spend has been diverted to sports channels (ESPN Software Pvt. Ltd, the official broadcaster for the World Cup, and Multi Screen Media Ltd’s MAX for IPL).”
Marketing executives at some GECs admitted that both viewership and advertising revenue would be affected by the cricket tournaments.
An executive with a top Hindi entertainment channel said ad revenue for GECs could decline by 20%. “Usually, 70-80% of the total ad budget of big brands is reserved for GECs. Since cricket is a premium property, it’s only natural that GECs will see a drop in both viewership and ad revenue,” said this executive, requesting anonymity.
GEC viewership during the season, according to Ajit Varghese, managing director, Maxus, a GroupM Pvt. Ltd firm, is expected to fall by at least 15-20%.
Of the total television advertising budget of about Rs10,000 crore, nearly 20% is expected to reserved for cricket this year.
“It could cross 20% of the total TV spends... ICC World Cup is on, IPL follows. Later we have a series with West Indies, England and Australia,” said Partha Ghosh, new business director at Media Direction Pvt. Ltd, a media buying firm.
What marks a shift for a majority of advertisers and brands towards cricket, according to Ashish Bhasin, India chairman and chief executive, South-East Asia, at Aegis Media Ltd, is the attractive return on investment (RoI) associated with cricket.
No wonder that brands such as Reebok, Maruti and Sony are parking 30-60% of their overall ad budgets in getting cricket-related sponsorships. Sajid Shamim, director, marketing and sales, Reebok Ltd, said that 60% of annual marketing budget will be used for World Cup and IPL and that the company will increase the digital budget to 25% from 5%.
Shashank Srivastava, chief general manager, marketing, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, said that the company will spend roughly 30% of its advertising expenditure on sports, largely cricket. “The presence in cricket is especially important for Auto companies like Maruti Suzuki as our core target group is male in the age group of 25-34 years, which has a heavy affinity for cricket,” said Srivastava.
Data by TAM Media Research point out that ESPN recorded a viewership rating of 7.8 for the opening World Cup match between India and Bangladesh, reflect the percentage of viewers watching a programme at a particular time.
According to aMap, which records overnight viewership data, 73.6 million people tuned into the India-England match. The India-Bangladesh match had a viewership of 35.1 million.
Ghosh of Media Direction said viewership ratings for GECs will decline by 10-15%, especially during the evening prime-time band. “The impact could be marginal on days when India doesn’t play during the World Cup,” he said. Anupam Vasudev, executive vice-president (marketing and communications) at Star India Pvt. Ltd, said there was only a marginal impact on viewership and ad revenue.
He said there was no reason for the channel to postpone plans for launching new shows. “We are gearing up to launch a new show, Comedy Ka Maha Muqabla, this month. Going forward, we have plans to launch a new fiction serial and will continue to add new shows as per our plans,” Vasudev said, adding GECs would only face a short-term impact from the cricket tournaments.
Sukesh Motwani, programming head, fiction, at Zee TV, said while GECs would be affected during India-specific matches, the channel, too, was launching new fiction shows as per schedule.
Sony Entertainment Television is also going ahead with its premieres and content properties. The channel will premiere actor Rajinikanth’s hit film Robot on 13 March , well into the World Cup.
Not all media buyers believe advertisers are exhausting their budgets on cricket, as that would leave them dry for the festival season towards the end of the year.
Manas Mishra, executive vice-president and head, Mudra Connext, a part of Mudra Max Pvt. Ltd, said while many advertisers will look to cash in on the cricket events, others would conserve resources to advertise in GECs during the festive season.
With roughly 2,400 brands launched last year, according to Anita Nayyar, chief executive, MPG India, the media arm of communications group Havas Media, “not all will concentrate on just cricket”.
Anushree Chandran contributed to this story.