Is Anil Ambani’s television business finally having some luck?
In August this year the Rs 250 crore Reliance Broadcast Network (RBNL) repositioned BIG Magic (Bihar and Jharkhand) as BIG Magic Ganga. The results have been startling. On the back of shows such as BIG Bahuriya and BIG Memsaab, BIG Magic Ganga is now the number one channel in the estimated Rs 150 crore Bihar/Jharkhand market, way ahead of incumbents Mahuaa and Dabangg. Its Hindi offering, BIG Magic which was relaunched as a comedy channel in April this year, is also holding on to its own in the fiercely competitive hindi general entertainment market.
After four years of trying, one broken partnership with CBS and a drastic pruning of its portfolio is the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG)-owned RBNL’s TV business getting somewhere? Radio (BIG FM) is the real star at RBNL, bringing Rs 200 crore of its Rs 250 crore topline in March – TV brings in just under Rs 50 crore. That makes it one of the smallest players in the Rs 43,000-crore Indian television market. But its recent success in small-town India is worth noting because it is home to one of the fastest growing segments in the television market in India – free-to-air channels. As the Indian market digitises and a new rating system comes into play, advertising on free-to-channels is estimated to more than double from Rs 1,300 crore to Rs 3,000 crore in the next three years. How much of that RBNL will get is moot.
In 2010, RBNL forayed into television with a partnership with the American CBS. Its five channels included Spark, a Punjabi channel showing dubbed CBS shows, BIG Magic, a general entertainment channel, BIG CBS Prime and BIG CBS Love in English. But this did not get RBNL anywhere. Then came the advertising slowdown of 2012-13 and the TV business was never really able to stand on its feet. “We are a leader in the radio business, so it was very difficult to survive as a challenger in TV,” says Tarun Katial, chief executive officer, RBNL.
“One year back we decided to resize the business,” says Katial. RBNL parted ways with CBS. “We now want to build our TV business on proprietary content and therefore we decided on the Hindi heartland,” says Katial. The national market for Hindi television has some fiercely large competitors such as STAR, ZEE, Sony and Viacom. STAR India alone is more than 10 times the size of RBNL’s television revenues. It made sense therefore to target markets that did not threaten the big guys directly. RBNL now targets geographies that have a connect to its 45 radio stations – especially in small-town India.
“The radio and television businesses synergize excellently,” says Katial. The same team of 250 people sells ad space for both the radio and TV business. One of BIG FM’s most popular shows, BIG Memsaab, where housewives showcase their talents, was extended to TV. This brought economies of scale since the backend was the same.
Bihar and Jharkhand were chosen because “outside of Maharashtra and West Bengal, it is the third largest regional market (in population terms),” says Katial. A stable government and fast growing gross domestic product, makes it an attractive market. “Advertisers look at Bihar and Jharkhand independent of other Hindi-speaking markets,” says Katial.
We want to be on TV
This choice of markets, seems to have worked, for two reasons.
One, the penetration of TV in rural India has gone through the roof, thanks to the plethora of distribution options now available – cable, direct-to-home and even mobile.
Two, so far most broadcasters were focused on the top 40-odd towns (of a total of over 160) that housed ratings agency TAM’s sample. Broadcast Audience Research Council or BARC, an industry body will start releasing numbers based on a new rating system sometime next year.
This sample, says BARC, will be two times that of the 9,650 homes TAM covers currently and will include rural India for the first time. This market loves free-to-air channels, irrespective of what they beam. And marketers such as Hindustan Unliever or Procter & Gamble love FTAs because they help reach large audiences to sell their soaps and shampoos to, in relatively media dark areas.
In anticipation of small-town and rural India finally showing up on the ratings charts, most large broadcasters are launching free-to-air channels – ZEE launched ZEE Anmol and Viacom18, Rishtey last year. These are markets in which that BIG Magic and Ganga are making their big gains in viewership. Katial claims that inventory on the Bihar channel is usually sold out.
Wait then for this to reflect on the topline numbers.
Source : BS