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In-depth: The business of Bollywood award shows

Till the early 2000s, only three film award shows – Filmfare, Stardust and Zee Cine – were broadcast on TV. In the last decade or so, the number has shot up to more than half a dozen. analyses whether these shows are a lucrative deal for broadcasters and what they mean for advertisers and viewers

Anything that gets high viewership also attracts higher ad rates. For GECs, film award shows have grown up to be such a property that attracts thrice the regular rates, comparable to ad rates offered during TV screening of a big Bollywood movie such as Dangal.

Today, all top four channels have more than half-a-dozen film and music award shows among them, mostly premiered in the first six months of the year. Screen Awards on Star Plus, Zee Cine Awards on Zee TV, and Stardust, Filmfare, IIFA on Colors TV and Big Zee Entertainment Awards to name a few.

The ad rates these shows command are anywhere in the range of Rs 2 lakh-Rs 3.5 lakh for a 10-second slot.

These events are a win-win situation for all. Starting from Bollywood stars to event production companies, media houses, TV channels and advertisers, all are getting value out of it. Experts say it's like a 20-20 cricket match that rakes in moolah for all and strengthens the property.

This year’s film awards season started off with Filmfare with viewers waiting for more. Advertisers have already booked their slots on the exposure charts around these events while the channels are gearing up to make the most of it. analyses what these award shows mean for the channels, advertisers, and viewers; the profit margins, and how much premium brands are ready to pay and why.

Advertisers and advertising on award shows

These properties make a good business sense as the advertising rates they govern are at least two to three times more than the regular prime time rates. The rates are comparable to an average movie premiere, while something like a Dangal may have been about three to four times more expensive that the regular rates. The cost of 10 seconds will be about two to three times more and the CPRP at least 30-50% higher.

Sundeep Nagpal, Stratagem Media, said, “Advertisers will pay for whatever gets viewership. For a high viewership property, which has been proven by data, a brand doesn't mind paying a high ticket price.”

The BARC India data for past two years shows how the brands have been flocking to these award shows every year. Out of all the properties, the maximum number of ad insertions was registered by Filmfare’s 2016 edition with 204 insertions, followed by Big Zee Entertainment Awards of 2017 that had 193 insertions.


Date Channel Show Ad insertions
31-12-2015 Star Plus BIG STAR ENTERTAINMENT AWARDS 2015 170
######### Sony Entertainment Television BRITANNIA FILMFARE AWARDS 2015 204
18-02-2017 Sony Entertainment Television JIO DIGITAL LIFE FILMFARE AWARDS 2017 179
24-01-2016 STAR Plus STAR SCREEN AWARDS-2016 160
31-12-2016 STAR Plus STAR SCREEN AWARDS 2017 149
31-12-2017 STAR Plus STAR SCREEN AWARDS 2018 173
######### Zee Cinema LUX ZEE CINE AWARDS 2016 146
30-12-2017 Zee Cinema BROOKE BOND RL ZEE CINE AWARDS-18 186
######### Colors NEXA IIFA AWARDS MADRID 160
16-07-2017 Colors NEXA IIFA AWARDS NEW YORK 2017 146

In addition, Sehgal said, “Associating the brand with film stars gets them the rub-off and the reach they require. This is heavily promoted across all genres wherever Zee is present, unlike any other film award show.”Speaking about the Zee Cine Awards, which is ZEEL’s in-house property, Ashish Sehgal, COO, Zee Unimedia, said, “The property is completely sold out, year on year. In a movie premiere, a brand can at the maximum run its ad, while in these award shows, the sponsoring brand name is visible in all marketing campaigns. Even on stage, there can be brand integrations. The red carpet is another big avenue.”

While the channels do charge a premium for these shows, it is not that they always handle the sales for the film nights. There are various formats of deals. Sometimes, the production company or the owning company of the show handles the ad sales too. In the recent deal between Colors and Filmfare, the complete production and sales is being managed by BCCL and Colors will earn a share in the revenue. There are even rumours in the market that Colors hasn’t really paid anything, except for offering the three-hour slot to the makers.

Which one is a better scenario though? Should the channels be making their own sales pitches, or is it better to let a third party sell it for them?

“The better deal for the channels is the revenue-sharing option as the liability of sales is not on them, while they still get the rub-off of branding, association, imagery and revenue share too. Also, if the sales has to be handed by the channels, the property gets camouflaged between a longer and packaged deal. They can’t command a two to three times premium that they otherwise get,” said a media observer.

Other than these events and the movie premieres, the channels have another impact property called reality show finale. But compared to these, the revenues are much more for the award properties, while viewership is comparable. A Bigg Boss finale will be much bigger than Filmfare, but a singing/dancing show will not rate that much.

“From an advertiser point of view, we look at it more as an impact property and how it is going to be promoted, how much exposure do we get from a brand perspective, whether it is making sense and if the timing is right for us,” the senior media planner said.

From an advertising point of view, Filmfare has the maximum demand, and then IIFA and Zee Cine Awards. Stardust and Screen appear at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. A Filmfare can be at about Rs 3-3.5 lakh per 10 seconds, others can be in the range of Rs 2-2.5 lakh per seconds.

Is it just a perception game?

Advertising revenues are huge but so is the value advertisers get. Many media observers said there is more to these awards properties than just monies. “From the audience point of view, it creates an identity which everybody tries to create for a long time now. If Colors is looked at as an entertainment channel, then why not? This is completely reality entertainment and people want to watch it. It’s quite captivating and gets a lot of viewership in the smaller towns,” said Nagpal.

A brand owner who invests heavily in one of these properties said, “These awards offer huge benefit over other properties and you get positioned as a premium channel. Colors is quite close to Bollywood anyway. These shows have a rub-off on its other properties too.”

Production costs and investment by channels

The investments in these award shows are much less than a blockbuster movie or a reality show finale. A media observer estimated that the overall spends on IIFA would be somewhere close to a Dangal.

Giving some more details on its in-house show, Sehgal said, “Production costs are high because the celebrities who appear also take a lot of money. A lot of times, the event reaches a break-even point. As time progresses, costs go on increasing, but gradually the top rung celebrities are filtered out. With the kind of charges they incur, one can make a movie out of each such demand. Since these are signature events, we have to do it, even if the profit margins are lower.”

The regular format is that mostly the film magazine owners execute these award shows and then look for a TV platform. “Ultimately, no matter how good and strong Filmfare or Stardust awards are, if you don’t get the TV platform, their value will decrease. Zee Cine Awards has exposure across the country because it is our own property and we aggressively promote it across genres. We give a lot of value to the advertiser unlike any other award show, which is why we earn highest revenue also,” said Sehgal.

The costs of movie satellite rights and these events can’t be compared since movie rights have different kind of deals. “Take a hypothetical situation, say you were to buy a Bajrangi Bhaijaan, you will have to pay about Rs 50 crore for it, but it you buy these along with 20 other things in a package for Rs 70 crore, you will shell out a lower cost. Awards are sold as a single property. In the current deal with Colors, Filmfare is being sold by BCCL for advertising and Colors is getting a revenue share. However, till last year, Sony was selling the ad slots. In such a deal, generally, there’s a possibility that Colors is offering only the timeslot and that there might not be a huge acquisition costs involved,” a former media planner said.

Production is mostly done by event companies: IIFA is done by Wizcraft, Zee Cine Awards is in-house, Filmfare and Screen are also done by a third party.

The marketing of these shows also cost a lot, as these are noise-making properties. These costs are also generally borne by the channels. For TV, the promo time of the channel is used, while in the case of other media marketing, it depends on deal to deal. In the current year’s Filmfare promotions, it was learnt that the marketing responsibility also lies with BCCL, but earlier Sony was promoting it.

“IIFA is completely handled by Wizcraft, right from production, ad sales and promotion. They buy a spot on the channel. The channel has the opportunity of selling the whole slot away. I am sure they are charging enough premium, ultimately they are putting it on primetime,” said a media planner.

Viewership numbers and viewers

Channel Date Show Star Time End Time Impressions '000s
Zee Cinema 05-03-2016 LUX ZEE CINE AWARDS 2016 19:27:46 23:13:36 4,784
Zee Cinema 01-04-2017 FAIR & LOVELY Z CINE AWARDS 2017 19:27:59 23:19:20 7,802
Zee Cinema 30-12-2017 BROOKE BOND RL ZEE CINE AWARDS-18 19:30:07 23:25:41 7,252
Zee TV 19-08-2017 BIG ZEE ENTERTAINMENT AWARDS 18:59:52 22:59:23 6,396
STAR Plus 31-12-2015 BIG STAR ENTERTAINMENT AWARDS 2015 20:29:36 24:01:07 10,691
STAR Plus 24-01-2016 STAR SCREEN AWARDS-2016 20:28:10 23:59:33 6,759
STAR Plus 31-12-2016 STAR SCREEN AWARDS 2017 20:30:00 24:01:14 11,122
STAR Plus 31-12-2017 STAR SCREEN AWARDS 2018 20:31:15 24:01:16 8,431
Colors 10-01-2016 SANSUI COLORS STARDUST AWARDS 19:00:12 22:39:02 13,296
Colors 08-01-2017 SANSUI COLORS STARDUST AWARDS 19:00:05 22:42:35 9,095
Colors 10-07-2016 NEXA IIFA AWARDS MADRID 19:00:05 22:30:30 6,144
Colors 16-07-2017 NEXA IIFA AWARDS NEW YORK 2017 19:00:06 22:26:48 4,444
Sony 07-02-2016 BRITANNIA FILMFARE AWARDS 2015 18:59:48 23:13:23 6,302
Sony 18-02-2017 JIO DIGITAL LIFE FILMFARE AWARDS 2016 21:00:20 24:53:40 8,783

Award shows have worked better on Star Plus than Zee or Sony, shows BARC data for the past two years. But the highest-rated award show since 2016 was the 2016 edition of Stardust on Colors that garnered 13.296 million Impressions. Screen awards clocked an average of 8 million in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 editions, while Zee Cine Awards were at an average of 6 million. Filmfare on Sony has been struggling at about an average of 7 million for the last two editions.While advertising and perception are huge gain points, acquisition and production costs are also involved. But some other perks of these award shows are viewers and the stickiness that these properties built. “The time spent on award shows is quite high. The reach increases because of the three-hour window to can grab viewers. On the other hand, even if these shows are telecast on GECs, a lot of movie audience pitches in too. This gives the channel an opportunity to showcase the regular content to these ‘new snacky’ viewers through ad breaks,” said a media planner.

“This is very much like why would Colors spend so much in Bigg Boss, or Zee on Saregama? It gives you that (extravagant) kind of identity over a period of time and this is useful for the channel. People know what to expect and this builds loyalty. These shows have a rub-off on other properties of the channel too,” said Nagpal.

According to few experts, movies are an unpredictable proposition. Two out of 10 movies do very well on the viewership front, but not all. These award shows will be in the league of an average movie premiere in terms of viewership. Award shows have their own charm and that attracts a lot of viewers, even if it doesn’t reflect much in viewership data.

“Broadly, the novelty and attraction of a particular award for a viewer point of view has gone. People don't want to watch to know who is winning the award, but it is more for the performances that happen. From that point of view, we don’t have an Oscar/ Grammy equivalent, because there is just too many of them and they have lost the sanctity even in the way the awards are given,” added a media expert.

However, even Oscar isn't doing good in terms of viewership. The world's most prestigious film award that was aired recently clocked its lowest ever viewership in the last 30 years. Grammy isn't doing too good either with viewership said to be in the low range.

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