Manav Dhanda has been spearheading SAB Group’s television business for a little more than two years. With five channels in its portfolio, namely Mastiii, Dabangg, Maiboli, Dillagi and Dhamaal, the company’s tryst with broadcasting isn’t over yet. Dhanda, the group’s chief executive, is keen to launch four more channels. One of them, as has been announced, is Happii, a Hindi comedy channel that will be launched soon. Ten years ago, the company had sold SAB TV, its comedy-centric channel to Sony Entertainment Television, now Sony Pictures Network.

With an investment of 400-500 crore on expansion, Dhanda wants to add a leading Hindi general entertainment channel to the kitty as well. He isn’t worried about competition or clutter in the market and says that the group believes in innovation. For the record, SAB Group’s Mastiii is a music and youth channel; Dabangg, a films and fiction channel for Uttar Pradesh and Bihar; and Maiboli, a Marathi language channel. Dillagi, which is a little more than a year old, was created specifically for the LC1 market; that is, for towns with a population of 100,000 or less. Dhamaal is the company’s music and youth channel for Gujarat.

Even a few years ago, such plans in television broadcasting would not have raised eyebrows. After all, it is the biggest advertising medium in the country. But, of late, sceptics are asking questions about TV’s long-term future. In fact, a mid-year review by media agency Madison Media of its annual Pitch Madison Advertising Report shows that TV advertising in the first six months of the year grew by a mere 11%, as opposed to the projected growth of 20% in 2016.

As a result, the agency altered its full-year estimate for advertising spends across media to 13.2% from the 16.8% it had projected in February. In the first six months, it grew 12.9%.

Madison’s mid-year review also indicates that digital advertising is growing faster than expected. Although the agency had originally estimated growth of 30% for the year, digital advertising grew by 37% in the first six months.

Of course, this doesn’t automatically mean that TV advertising has shifted to digital media, but it does raise a red flag especially in view of some of the global predictions on TV advertising versus digital media advertising.

Three different global reports published recently suggest that digital media advertising will overtake TV advertising in some markets soon.

A June 2016 report on ft.com quoted PwC to say that “television is set to lose its historic lead over the US advertising market next year as consumers’ eyes shift to their phones… an explosion in mobile video will push digital advertising revenues to $75.3 billion in 2017, surpassing the $70.4 billion going to television broadcasters".

In its quarterly ad spend forecast on its website, digital information and research company eMarketer.com predicted a similar trend in March this year. The report said that digital ad spending will surpass the ad spend on TV next year and that by 2020, the latter’s share of ad spending will drop below one-third. “In 2017, TV ad spending will total $72.01 billion, or 35.8% of total media ad spending in the US. Meanwhile, total digital ad spending in 2017 will equal $77.37 billion, or 38.4% of total ad spending," it said.

Media agency ZenithOptimedia’s global report made public in December 2015 also said that the Internet is the fastest growing medium. “By 2018 we expect Internet advertising to attract 36.6% of all global advertising, overtaking television for the first time to become the world’s largest advertising medium," said the report.

Although the numbers in these reports are not India-specific, we usually follow global trends. Experts back home say that TV is a mature medium which sees a spurt in growth during landmark events such as elections or cricket tournaments. Advertising on digital media, on the other hand, is exploding owing to changing consumption habits.

Young consumers may not be watching TV on a set at all. They are probably watching it on the go on their mobiles phones and laptops at a time suited to them. Keeping the changing consumption patterns in mind, broadcasters like Star India, Sony Pictures Network and Zee Entertainment Enterprises have launched their respective digital platforms, namely, Hotstar, SonyLiv and Ozee.

In an interview earlier, Chaaya Baradhwaaj, founder and CEO of BC Web Wise, a full-service digital agency, said the rise in digital ad spends is being driven by the level of consumer intimacy that the medium offers. Besides, increasing connectivity is also helping to reach more audiences, particularly within the consuming classes which the marketer really wants to reach, she added.

But despite the global forecasts in favour of digital media, Ashish Pherwani, partner at EY Llp, is not dismissing India’s TV story in a hurry. His contention is that globally, digital revenues exceed linear TV revenues when smart device penetration exceeds 50% of the user base and broadband penetration exceeds 33%. “We are
four-five years away from that today. Hence, I don’t think core TV ad revenues are going to be impacted in India in a large manner due to digital anytime soon," he says

SAB Group’s Dhanda agrees. Digital is no threat yet. Data speeds beyond the metros are so low that you cannot even surf, he says, recalling a recent experience in Patna. “Television is still the largest consumption platform. And it is poised to grow at 15% for the next four-five years," he concludes.

Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.

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