The general entertainment channel (GEC) genre was one of the most-affected segments on television in terms of viewership and advertising during the Covid-19 lockdown. Although broadcasters relied on reruns of popular and old shows â€”shooting and production stopped due to the restrictions â€” and were successful in retaining some viewership, advertising on GECs saw a steep decline during the period.
As major broadcasters returned with fresh content on television last week after a long hiatus, experts and leaders say advertising is back on GECs. However, it is a long road ahead for them to get back to normal.
According to Laxmi Shetty, Chief Sales Strategy and Maximisation Officer, Zee, advertising has picked up since June. She said even though some major FMCG brands continued to advertise during the lockdown, new categories of advertisers are now emerging.
"Advertisers have reached a realisation that brands need to be in the mind map of the consumer. With this intent, an upward movement in advertising has started since June and now with the return of fresh content on GECs, and a relevant and conducive environment, advertising demand has further peaked. Relevancy is another consideration as brands are evaluating if the existing campaigns are still relevant or insensitive in light of the pandemic. With our strategic customer-first approach, we are not only providing a holistic solution but creating content as well with appropriate influencer and messaging, thereby driving the price point," she said.
According to Mahesh Shetty, Head, Network Sales, Viacom18, most regular advertisers are back as lockdown has eased. "More brands are now willing to advertise and even spend more. It wonâ€™t be right to say that new advertisers are queuing up as most of them are still FMCG brands. However, there has been a jump as compared to lockdown levels," he said.
A long way to get back to normalcy
According to experts, despite categories returning, the market conditions will eventually decide the fate of advertising on GECs. "Yes, original airing will attract a few more advertisers and we will see a little increase in the momentum, but the market condition needs to change for advertising to return with full thrust. We are hoping things turn around with the upcoming festivals," said Sujata Dwibedy, Group Trading Director, Amplifi, Dentsu Aegis Network India.
Kishan Kumar Shyamalan, Vice-President, Wavemaker India, said viewership is also returning due to fresh content. "Viewership is back and that was bound to happen. My hypothesis is also that a section of the loyal audience might switch to other channels, genres or formats like OTT. One might see a pecking order changes in some markets.Â
â€œBy July, FMCG is back across most of the categories. You could also see regional players coming back in some of the regional heavy markets. E-commerce is back to capitalise on the surge in online purchases. Select auto players are on-air and one could also see a few companies airing corporate campaigns," he said.
Most broadcasters had offered discounts to advertisers due to low advertising. But are broadcasters going to continue with the special pricing in this environment?
According to Mahesh Shetty, there has been a drop in discounting in July and they are slowly moving towards pre-Covid pricing. "With fresh episodes starting this month, it is not liable for any broadcaster to continue with the Covid discounting," he said.
"July has seen a comeback. To boost consumption, yes, lucrative pricing was offered in April-May, which we have started withdrawing June onwards. July is back to normalcy and this is predominantly on the back of our sales approach of providing a business solution and not just satisfying the communication objective," said Laxmi Shetty.
According to Dwibedy, the channels that recently returned to FTA might also attract advertisers. "In the case of airing on free-dish, the number of channels is limited in each genre. In the general entertainment space, some have repeat content with excellent experience of viewing and some have original content too. As we all know, good content matters the most and thus, the ultimate winner in this category will be the one who has the best content, clarity of viewing, etc. The channels that have returned to FTA are looking good in terms of advertising and are in neck-and-neck competition with channels that have original content and have been gaining traction in the last one year since NTO," she said.