Use of the landing page has been likened to premium retail shelf space. Is it a fair marketing tool for use by broadcasters? In the context of news channels, should it be viewed differently?
We asked domain experts to weigh in.
‘Not sustainable, unless it causes a permanent change in viewing behaviour…’
– Paritosh Joshi, Principal- Provocateur Advisory
There is no point in discussing whether landing pages is a fair or unfair practice, the only question that can be raised is whether it is legal or illegal. If you systematically try to remove access to competitive products or you try to monopolise in any way, one can say that fairness is affected – and remedies for those exist as well.
I believe the landing page issue doesn’t have much to do with fairness. We are effectively saying that through the appropriate landing pages, broadcasters are getting opportunities to place their product before the consumer and their argument is very simple: we don’t have enough sampling and we would like people to sample our products. The same way somebody would pay for the display space in a grocery store or supermarket.
This is not a new argument in India, by the way. Around 16 or 17 years ago, the idea that people would pay to be present on a cable operator’s network, paying carriage fees, started in India, when we were an analogue country. It wasn’t a paid service initially. Broadcasters started paying as some of them felt that by doing so, they could occupy a position where they could stay inside the bundle instead of outside. This is the history of broadcasters trying to be visible in a competitive environment. During those times, it was a battle for just being viewable in the tunable frequency in the consumer’s home.
Today the question is, will someone view my channel if the channel number is 160 or will they go looking for it or should I buy landing pages, so that they see it every time they turn on their set top boxes? If there is no law which has been broken in the process, then there ought to be no issue with that.
On news channels…
All of these broadcasters fundamentally want to be profitable. The way they are looking at it is, if the landing pages are helping them to increase the revenue, hopefully the profile will also be increased eventually. Even if it comes at a high cost, maybe that will make the consumers appreciate the channel. This is not sustainable, though, unless it causes a permanent change in viewing behaviour. The real issue is elsewhere; with the highly regulated system of pricing and tariffs”.
‘Will skew viewership data in favour of those who can afford it’
– V Chandra Barathi, Media Consultant
If it is going to promote a television channel by directing it to the landing page, that will unduly influence the viewership data against the channels who cannot afford a landing page. Therefore, it cannot be called a fair marketing tool. Yes, it is a revenue generating tool as long as DPOs (distribution platform operators) are considered. But it will lead to malpractices which are already happening. Look at the situation where the broadcasters have cross media interest, where the broadcasters are also distributors. For instance, TCCL which owns News Tamil 24X7, VK Digital which owns Polimer News, and SCV. Between three of them, TCCL has 35 lakh-plus connectivity, SCV and Sun DTH put together, will have over 30 lakh connectivity, and VKC has around 20 lakh connectivity. If you look at the BARC’s news channel rating in Tamil Nadu, top three channels are Polimer, News Tamil 24X7, and Sun News. These three players have cross media interest, they are the substantial stakeholders of these distribution networks (either the distributor network owns the channel or vice versa).
Imagine, a player like Thanthi TV who has over 75 years of print media experience and channels like Puthiya Thalamurai, and News18 Tamil which is part of a very major network in India. Their positions are around 4th, 5th, and 6th. These lower ranking players will never have an opportunity of getting into the landing page whereas the distribution network-owned news channels can land in the households where they have connectivity. These three players are favourably positioned when it comes to giving inflated data through the landing page. How can it become a fair marketing practice or tool?
When it comes to the national level GEC players, ZEE has their Siti Cable, Star has Den Network, for players like Sony, Colors etc. who do not have their own network they are at a disadvantage as they need to spend a huge amount of money on the landing page.
In my opinion, landing pages for cross media owners shouldn’t be permitted at all, either as an individual programme or as a channel. Ideally speaking BARC should sample outside of these networks.
On news channels….
Landing page is used for promotions. As mentioned earlier, If a new channel launch is happening, to keep people informed about the same, for that limited declaration and with that kind of material on the screen, landing pages can be permitted as a promotional and marketing tool.
‘Everybody is trying to game the system all the time’
– Chintamani Rao, Strategic Marketing & Media Consultant
The landing page issue is just another comment on the pathetic state of broadcasting in India, particularly of news broadcasting.
Everybody is trying to game the system all the time. From panel tampering to multiple LCNs (logical channel numbers) to landing pages, they are always looking for new ways to game the system. That is how they seek to gain ratings – that, and the nightly shouting matches spewing bile. There’s no journalism anymore: it’s dead. When the ED report was released the other day some channels went to town crowing about how they were right and everyone else was wrong. That may be news for broadcasters, but is it news for their viewers? Do the viewers care?
The same people sit together on industry bodies, and each one’s agenda is to protect the interests of their own channels, not the broader interests of the industry. That’s why the bodies are incapable of enforcing anything. And if they or the regulator do try to initiate any action or policy the broadcasters go running in appeal to TDSAT or to the court.
Now Zee News channels have quit BARC. Earlier NDTV did. No one quit the ratings system when TAM was the ratings provider.
They wanted an industry-run system, and it’s been mired in controversy ever since it started. Again, that’s because each one is looking after their own interests, the industry be damned.
‘Landing pages are marketing gimmicks’
– Anil Ayroor, Group COO, Insight Media (24 and Flowers TV)
In marketing I rarely find fair practices; it’s all about competition. Those who have the capacity will do better campaigns. Ultimately your content is the king. If the channel content is not good and if the channel has got a landing page it won’t work. The viewers prefer good content. In case of 24, in Asianet Cable Vision we got 6th channel position after all news channels, still we are No.2 and very near to No.1. The MSOs will market the landing pages in an intelligent way and the broadcasters will fall for it and will lose money.
Landing pages are marketing gimmicks for some marketing heads to show their position is intact. We are forced to trust the current rating system, which is not error-free as mentioned in the ED report in Mumbai High Court in connection with the tampering investigation.