|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
What the slowdown numbers say
Vanita Kohli-Khandekar | February 24, 2009 09:59 IST
The third quarter numbers show the effect of the slowdown on the media business. There is a decline in net profits and margins for a sample of 16 listed companies such as HT Media [Get Quote], Deccan Chronicle and Zee among others. But what is eerie is the similarity between the print and TV numbers, which have generally been on different growth trajectories so far.
They show more than anything else that print, roughly half the size of the TV business, is a high growth market with loads of upside while TV's problems are fast pushing it to 'mature' status.
First, the numbers. While sales have risen (albeit less than usual), net profit and margins have declined for print and TV companies between the third quarters of 2007-08 and 2008-09. TV seems to have done better if you do not take Sun TV [Get Quote], the only exception, into account.
The samples in both print and TV (without Sun) saw a sales increase of 3.5 per cent and 3.8 per cent respectively. The net profit decline (again without Sun TV) for print versus TV was 84.3 per cent as compared to 79.9 per cent. The fall in net margin (sans Sun) too are similar -- in print they went down from 19.5 to 3.0 per cent and in TV they went down from 18.4 per cent to 3.6 per cent.
The similarity between the TV and print numbers could just be an extraordinary co-incidence. But my guess is that it says something about the two largest segments of the $16 billion (Rs 80,000 crore) Indian media and entertainment business.
A cursory analysis of the quarters before the third one shows that while print companies had been growing steadily, the TV guys had already been stagnating or even declining.
Most print companies have seen dramatic falls only after the global slowdown in the middle of the third quarter of 2008-09.
It has been known for long that TV needs to get its act together -- roughly Rs 15,000 crore (Rs 150 billion) flows into cable television alone as pay revenues but only 15-20 per cent of this comes to broadcasters. This makes the competition for the ad pie, less than half the size of pay, intense.
Now add more players and channels, and falling ad rates and profitability are a natural outcome.
Some of this is being offset by the rise of digital pay TV options such as direct-to-home and also digital cable. However these account for just about 11-odd million homes against the total 83 million cable and satellite homes in India.
As the number is rising in double digits, thanks to half a dozen DTH operators fighting with each other, broadcasters should been celebrating in anticipation of more pay revenues.
Instead a satellite shortage and a warped DTH policy ensures that many now face the prospect of paying carriage fees to DTH operators too. (DTH operators face a satellite capacity constraint because policy forces them to use short-in-supply ISRO satellites).
This is ironical. It is the more than doubling of carriage fee to cable operators in the last two years that has caused much of the blood on most broadcaster balance sheets (along with rising content costs).
Now even as an alternate distribution system shows glimmers of hope, it looks like costs are set to increase further. That nips in the bud any hopes of getting more pay revenues from DTH, at least for now.
The long and short of it is that TV will continue to be 'revenue challenged.' The moment the market bounces back, advertising could rise and print companies will go back on their growth path. TV companies would just have one problem less to deal with.
The problems of spiralling costs and revenue stagnation will hold.
It would have seemed unbelievable if one said this five years back -- but from an investor's perspective in the short-to-medium term, print rocks in India.
The writer is a media consultant and author of The Indian Media Business firstname.lastname@example.org