TV Impact: Prasad Manjrekar gives his thoughts on TV ratings decline

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In our specials to delve further into the decline of Asian TV ratings in the UK, BizAsiaLive.com continues to speak to leading industry personnel to get clarity from all aspects of the UK Asian media circuit. This week, BizAsiaLive.com catches up with Prasad Manjrekar, who heads the agency, Mans Media. The company is the exclusive representative of the leading Indian news channel, Aaj Tak in the UK.

Mans Media has been the exclusive UK agency for Aaj Tak since its inception in this market, what kind of changes have you seen over the years?
Mans Media picked up exclusive rights for Aaj Tak in April 2013, when the channels planned to get out of Sony View Asia pack. It’s been an interesting journey till now working with Aaj Tak, as we have a lot of autonomy to bring in new advertisers by offering them new ideas and innovations, wherein Aaj Tak is the only news channel in UK that has offered sponsorship as an option to advertisers, to get additional benefit to their advertising campaigns. The channel has been holding on to Number 1 and 2 position week on week, based on BARB panel in UK. We have kept adding new advertisers on the channel throughout the years and many clients have supported Aaj Tak by being on the channel consistently throughout the years, which also means Aaj Tak delivers response to our clients advertising campaigns.

Aaj Tak has been steady in its viewership and remains one of the UK’s most watched Hindi news channels but how commercially viable is an Indian news channel in the UK market?
Being a niche category, I believe there is only space for 3 – 4 Indian news channels in the UK and based on traditional data, the same 3-4 news channels have delivered consistently over the years. Although, it is a niche category, it makes sense for the top Indian news channels to be in UK / Europe and either breakeven or make small profits from the UK market, based on ad sales revenues from mainstream and ethnic advertisers. It is more important for news channels (media owners) to understand the viability for their channel to stay in UK market and it differs for each channel in this genre.

Since the Sky changes in August last year, Aaj Tak has been maintained its audience, what’s your take on how the channel has performed over the past five months?
The changes to Sky package has not affected the news genre as such in any shape or form, as all of the changes happened in GEC category. Moreover, Aaj Tak has been consistent with its viewership numbers, throughout its tenure in the FTA market, from 2013.

As a media agency, what kind of position have you been left in with the upheaval in UK TV ratings?
I would say the disruption in UK TV ratings have affected the media owners more, than the media agencies in the space. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for UK Asian media.

When you’re media buying, how difficult is it now than before in selecting the correct media for your brand in the fluctuating daily data?
It has become much easier then ever, to select correct media for the brands we work with, as with Sky changes last year, it has become a level playing field and the numbers speak for itself for all the networks.

With population increasing but viewing share continuing to dwindle, what kind of future have Asian TV channels ahead of them?
It is important to understand the factors behind the decline in Asian viewership in UK. One of the important factor being immigration laws in UK, which has restricted fresh migrants to enter the country over the past five years. This means we are now relying on households with 1st and 2nd generation of Asian population to continue watching Asian TV channels, to deliver eyeballs. The 3rd and 4th generation of Asians do not consume Asian media and their viewing patterns are as good as White / British audiences. Unless the immigration rules are relaxed and there is fresh immigration from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Asian media will continue to suffer with declining viewership numbers. There are other factors in effect as well.

Prasad Manjrekar

The 3rd and 4th generation of Asians do not consume Asian media and their viewing patterns are as good as White / British audiences.

Some broadcasters with more than one channel are delivering shockingly low numbers, what advice would you give them?
I am sure all the networks with more than one channel have their strategies in place to counter the low viewership numbers. As an agency, we have advised channels/networks in the past, which has delivered good results and higher revenues for the media owners and we are happy to work with any network, who would like to work with us, to deliver similar/better results.

With claim companies & children adverts falling under strict censorship in the UK, how important is it for regulators to open up on restrictions on such adverts, sponsorship & product placements?
The regulations about children adverts and watershed are in fact for the benefit of our children, so it is safe to say we should respect the regulatory body and abide by these, as it is in the best interest of our children. However, it is also important for the regulators to understand the importance of relaxing the restrictions on ads, sponsorships and product placements, to help media owners and advertisers to make decent revenues, to sustain their existence in this market. A prime example of this is the downfall of claim category as a whole, who has been contributing substantial amount of revenues for Asian networks.

With the share of Hindi movie channels increasing and general entertainment channels falling, what does that explain about UK Asian audiences?
This is a good example of my point earlier, where the viewing pattern of 2nd generation is changing, where although they want to consume entertainment in their own language, they are keen to move away from the traditional Saas, Bahu and family based dramas and watch entertainment that suits their interest. This is also the reason for success of Premium properties such as Big Boss, KBC, New Movie Premieres, Award show telecasts and even shows like Taarak Mehta and Bhabhji Ghar Par Hain. This could also be the reason for success of Hum TV in UK, the dramas on Hum have a lifespan of 2-3 months, which means there is fresh entertainment for viewers and doesn’t get monotonous. There is definitely need for fresh ideas to deliver new & better content, to keep the audiences engaged.

How well prepared do you think Asian TV channels in UK are for the transition to digital platforms?
Most of the Asian TV channels in UK are already on various OTT platforms in UK and US anyways, so I’m sure the networks are well geared up for this change.

With numbers falling across Asian TV channels, where do you think they are headed and would you blame complacency by broadcasters for viewers switching off?
I think the numbers at the current level have stabilised to an extent, I personally don’t see a further dip in these figures in the near future, unless there are drastic changes and/or pirated IPTV boxes flourish, which can also add to declining numbers, as they can’t be measured. Moreover, I wouldn’t blame the broadcaster, as every broadcaster is doing their best to come up with new ways & innovations to maintain & increase their viewership numbers and also to engage new advertisers, by offering out of the box solutions.

Prasad Manjrekar

The sample size for Asian households is pretty small, which means even one family goes for a holiday, it affects the numbers for the channel/channels this family are regularly watching adversely

How reliable is the BARB system for Asian TV channels?
The sample size for Asian households is pretty small, which means even one family goes for a holiday, it affects the numbers for the channel/channels this family are regularly watching adversely, which could lead to a drop of 15-30% viewership, for the smaller channels.

Final words
With major changes in dynamics, the sentiment of Asian media in UK is at an all time low. Possibly one way to salvage, could be for major/bigger Asian broadcasters to unite and come up with a solution, to take control and mend the situation for Asian media currently.

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