If 2005 was the year of reality, spike programming and talent shows, 2006 may well be the year for special interest channels and niche programming.
The growth areas next year are likely to be niche genres like kids, news, Hindi films, and English entertainment channels.
If one has to backtrack to 2005, as per AdEx estimates, a division of TAM Media Research, the year 2005 spelt good news for all the above genres with all the three gaining significantly with audiences as well as revenues.
News channels garnered a total of 6.5 per cent viewership share as compared to 5.4 per cent last year, while the share of revenue stood at 11.9 per cent as compared to 10.3 per cent in 2004.
The mass entertainment channels, however, doesn't seem to project a very optimistic story next year. While general entertainment channels saw a marginal growth in viewership at 33.6 per cent in 2005 from 33 per cent last year, the share of revenues for this segment saw a major blip from 47 per cent in 2004 to 39.5 per cent in 2005.
Nandini Dias, vice-president, Lodestar Media, points out, "Customisation and innovative solutions have become the norm, both of which are very difficult for general entertainment channels to carry out. On the other hand, news channels have innovated themselves considerably in 2005 to make themselves relevant to the consumers. As a result they have gained not only viewership but also command a premium."
Media analysts are of the opinion that 2006 will see a surge of advertisers coming on to niche channels, primarily due to the fact that they garner focussed audiences. With more dual TV homes coming in and specialised viewing habits being developed, special interest channels will thrive in viewership.
According to Manish Porwal, genral manager - investment and new intiatives, Starcom Worldwide, "The trend of viewership remaining static and the share of revenues dipping for general entertainment channels was a natural as well as a futuristic trend. The trend ahead will be the emergence of more engagemnent media rather than exposure media with the catalyst factor being multiple TV sets and focussed defined TV vieweing slots."
Hiren Pandit, general manager, Mindshare said, "The general entertainment channels are likely to see reduction both in revenues as well as viewership with 2006 being packed with cricket."
Tarun Katial, business head, Sony Entertainment Television, however, says that it was commendable that despite the severe fragmentation, the general entertainment genre managed to hold on and has reached a point of consolidation."
In terms of revenue, Rohit Gupta, executive vice-president and revenue management head, Sony Entertainment Television, pointed out that the general entertainment genre would also witness surge of revenues as the cable & satellite universe was expanding and this trend would remain for the next 4-5 years.
Deepak Segal, executive vice president - programming, Star India says, "Although 2005 was a static year for viewership for the general entertainment sector, 2006 should see some key programmes which will act as the category drivers to boost the overall viewership of this genre."
Joy Chakraborthy, executive vice president - network sales, Zee Network said, "I don't agree that general entertainment channels have dipped in revenues. What has happened is that some channels, which were overpriced, have gone through some correction. With the industry questioning the basic rating system and clients now not only using the cost per rating point benchmarks, a varied mix of channels and genres are being used to arrive at the same efficiency."
Hindi film channels on the other hand gained a total of 2.8 per cent in viewership at 7.8 per cent and 1.9 per cent in revenue at 5.6 per cent this year. The kids genre also witnessed a spurt moving from 3 per cent in 2004 to 3.8 per cent in 2005, revenues up by 0.4 per cent at 2.6 per cent.
Albert Almeida, business head, Max, pointed out, "The surge in viewership in 2005 can be atributed to the large number of releases that took place this year. That apart, the time lag between the release of a movie on the big screen to when it is aired on a movie channel has considerably shortened, thereby increasing interest levels in the genre.
Added Gupta, "The increase in viewership and revenues in the Hindi film channels has come from the upping of rates as well as better inventory utilisation. Movie channels will further grow for the next 2-3 years as it is still a genre that could render better efficiency."
Chakraborthy added, "Movie channels this year went through a rate correction process and have also improved their inventory utilisation both in prime time as well as in non-prime time. If the trend of increasing rates for movie channels continues as this genre is still very underpriced, a 30-40 per cent increase in revenues is expected next year."
The surprise although came from regional channels, which has dropped in viewership from 41 per cent last year to 36.5 per cent in 2005. Although, the share of revenues has actually gone up from 20.4 per cent in 2004 to 24.8 per cent in 2005.Pandit stated that regional channels are one segment which will grow significantly in the year to come as they have been short changed in the past as the viewership - revenue ratio is not commensurate.