India under lockdown: Broadcasters stare at drop in ad revenues

Mumbai: Broadcasters are staring at a drop in advertising revenues despite Indians spending more time at home watching TV during the ongoing lockdown after top spending companies put many planned campaigns on hold or even cancelled them.

Top broadcasters, media buyers and advertisers ET spoke with, feel that if the situation doesn’t improve by end of April, the TV industry will end up with a 30-40% drop in ad revenues in April and May.

Experts say that while March is usually a slower month for advertising, many top spending categories — like auto, consumer durables, retail, and mobile phones— spend heavily during these two moths on IPL and the summer season.

With IPL getting suspended and a nationwide lockdown in force, advertisers aren’t keen on spending marketing monies and broadcasters feel that the continuing uncertainty might bring more pain.

“The media industry, which depends heavily on advertising revenues, is going to take a massive hit because of economic disruption. It’s tough to estimate the scale and size of impact and it will depend on how long and deep is the disruption,” acknowledges Uday Shankar, president, The Walt Disney APAC and chairman, Disney & Star India. “There is a massive impact on TV advertising in the Month of April.”

For broadcasters, 60-65% of their top-line comes from ads.

MK Anand, MD and CEO of Times Network said that while there is a definite drop in ad sales, there are emerging signals from certain sectors including digital, banking and insurance and healthcare. “We are absolutely sure that engagement and reach of TV as a medium has seen a rise, and it’s going to jump further. As a marketer, I see this as an opportunity to outshine by doing strategic brand messaging in a highly engaging context.”

Times Network, for instance, is running three campaigns. First is ‘Fighting Fear with Facts’ that seeks to counter the immediate fear psychosis gripping the audience and proposes that Times Network news channels are the best antidote due to their superior fact based reporting – a message that builds brand salience beyond the current context. Second Movies Now, which is positioned as ‘Home to Superheroes’ has used the occasion to Salute ‘India’s real Superheroes’ – Doctors, Police, Reporters etc., who are out there making sure the essential services keep running even as all of us stay home. Besides these, the network is also running ‘India Cares’, an umbrella campaign, which is a call to donate for PM Cares.

Broadcasters agree that a lot of businesses are under stress as the entire supply chain has been disrupted. And advertisers don’t see a reason to advertise if it doesn’t translate into sales as people are not venturing out to purchase goods and services.

Ashish Sehgal, chief growth officer – ad sales, ZEE said, “We understand that these are tough times. Yes, there have been some cancellation requests. Some businesses have suspended operations and we are actively helping those categories. But we are also appealing to those categories, where business is operational, to continue supporting us.”

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