Optimism rules the roost at Star and Disney India as the company emerges from a challenging Q1 of FY21, heading into a stellar second half. Nitin Bawankule -Head – Ad Sales, hopes that both Star and the industry maintain their dream run, especially as we inch closer to the festive season.
In a tête-à-tête with exchange4media, Bawankule talks about improving ad monetization with Sirius, his outlook for the TV ad business for FY22, IPL and more.
1. How has been the response to your end-to-end suite of advanced advertising solutions, Sirius from marketers, media planners, and creative agencies? How has Sirius helped Star-Disney to improve ad monetization?
Since its launch, Sirius has received a great response. Over the months, it has witnessed great traction among marketers and agencies alike, who have tested it for various campaigns to help them optimize their advertising investments.
The value proposition of Sirius lies in creating advanced cross-screen media plans for brands and bring in efficiency for media planners and marketers for better ROI. We have received positive feedback and response and are continuously working on the platform to make it even more relevant to the marketers.
2. What has been the impact of the pandemic on the ad business in terms of the relationship between the key stakeholders?
Technology has been a boon to help us forge stronger relationships with key stakeholders, resulting in increased engagement. Not being able to meet brands and media agencies in person has been a big change, but we have gone through unprecedented times together and this has helped our relationship evolve.
There is also a heightened opportunity to collaborate as we constantly work towards providing more evolved solutions to maximize audience engagement. For instance, last year we collaborated with ITC for ‘5 STAR Kitchen ITC Chef’s Special’ to showcase the rich culinary heritage of India. This was broadcast across multiple channels on our network. With most people being home-bound, we realised that they would enjoy watching such content.
3. FY21 was a challenging year for ad-supported businesses, including TV. How did Star Disney cope with the ad slowdown in FY21?
Q1 of FY21 was challenging for businesses across sectors and categories around the world, especially with the lockdown. July is when the market started to pick up and the industry started getting into positive sentiment.
Even if some verticals were only just recovering, we at Star & Disney India were back on track. September to March was phenomenal and by and large, the television industry bounced back very well. The second half of FY21 was as good as pre-pandemic times.
For us, two primary factors drove growth. First, the return of IPL/live cricketing property after a long hiatus due to which brands and marketers came back in full swing on Star Sports as well as Disney+ Hotstar. And second, with Star India network’s stellar performance across Hindi and regional channels, we emerged as the preferred broadcaster, offering content that our viewers enjoyed. It helped us garner a good share of the advertising market.
4. The second wave has impacted the Q1 of FY22. What is your outlook for the TV advertising business for FY22, both from Star and the industry’s perspective?
The second wave was challenging, but the market has recovered since then and we are optimistic about the upcoming months. We have an exciting sports calendar, starting with IPL and the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup along with new content launches across our linear network and Disney+ Hotstar.
At an industry level too there is great progress and recovery. We are hoping that the industry performs even better with the festive season around the corner.
5. Entertainment has been the mainstay of Star’s overall business. With sports ad revenues seeing a sharp increase in the last few years, has the dependency on entertainment reduced?
Sports and general entertainment are two sides of the same coin for us, with both being equally important and having a different value proposition for advertisers. Sports is considered more of an impact and a pan demographic offering whereas general entertainment has a particular target audience that cuts across region, gender and age groups.
6. Strategically, how important is IPL for Star from an advertising point of view, and how has it helped the network to scale up the advertising business as a whole?
IPL is undoubtedly one of the largest impact properties and holds immense strategic importance. Having said that, advertisers evaluate every property independently and each property has its distinct value proposition in terms of reach and target audience. IPL does not have a rub-off effect on general entertainment channels.
7. Disney+ Hotstar as well as other OTT platforms have been registering massive growth on AVOD as well as SVOD side. Has OTT begun to eat into TV audiences, and has it started reflecting in ad sales?
While OTT platforms have seen aggressive growth over the last few years, traditional platforms like television are here to stay. The unique Indian habit of the entire family sitting together prevails. Digital compliments TV and both will co-exist. There is a massive opportunity for brands – TV with its mass reach and OTT with customizable solutions; marketers should use both the platforms effectively in line with their business, brand agenda and campaign timing.
8. The overall share of Hindi GECs has been going down, while that of the Hindi movie and news genre is going up. Is this resulting in a shift of ad monies from GEC to other genres?
There is no shift from Hindi GECs to Hindi movies, both genres are doing well for us. In fact, our shows on Star Plus have been performing phenomenally well week after week, making it the preferred channel in the Hindi GEC space.
9. FMCG continues to be the biggest advertising category on TV. Isn’t it risky to have an overdependence on just one category of advertisers, and what is the solution to reduce the dependence?
There is no denying that FMCG companies are the largest advertisers across any platform in the country. It is the most consumed category by media in India from a viewers standpoint and FMCG contributes to 60% of the consumption bucket of any Indian family. Over the last three years, we have seen a significant shift to newer categories like e-commerce, FinTech, Edutech, online gaming and new high-growth internet companies.
Online and new verticals are starting to take 15% -18% of ad space. Over the last two to three years, due to the evolving economic scenario, traditional verticals like Auto and Banking have seen some slowdown. However, we are positive that once pre-COVID normalcy returns, these verticals will also once again start investing significantly.
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