Doordarshan pitches for a larger slice of the ad pie, seeks fresh content

Doordarshan pitches for a larger slice of the ad pie
A few hours with Doordarshan (DD) can serve as a quick refresher to a list of brands and ads that  have faded from the urban landscape, although they once occupied centrestage in national media. Consider the ad where Amitabh Bachchan endorses multipurpose skin cream Boroplus in his trademark baritone, or the earworm-worthy jingle for Vicco Vajradanti that once played in cinema theatres, or the red and white packaged Lifebuoy soap—these brands are regulars on DD, driving their wares to an audience that is away from the reach of digital or the paid channels.

Vineet Sodhani, CEO, Spatial Access, a media audit agency, says, “Advertisers who have  very deep distribution networks, products targeted at the very bottom of the pyramid and those that are always looking for additional inventory in widely and deeply distributed platforms will look at DD. Of course besides government and few social organisations. But no one is looking at it exclusively.”

Supriya Sahu, director-general of DD says that the brands active on the network are primarily FMCG, public sector banks and PSUs. “Central government ministries plus many state governments advertise on DD,” she says. “But the plan is to make it more lucrative and for that we need fresh content,” she adds. 

The broadcaster has been working towards that Sahu informs. There are special shows for female farmers on DD Kisan, a rock band talent hunt on DD National and a new system BATS (Broadcast Airtime Traffic Scheduler) has been introduced to modernise scheduling of ads and billings online.

Media planners and buyers agree that the reach of Doordarshan and the rates that it offers advertising are lucrative to advertisers across the board. Being the TV arm of the public broadcaster, the DD network is present across terrestrial, and cable and satellite distribution platforms, giving it penetration like no single private broadcaster. 

However, despite its reach, when it comes to viewership, the satellite channels are far ahead. “Advertisers are ultimately looking for eyeballs and the fact is that once a consumer gets satellite channels, they don’t consume DD channels as much. Hence the viewership base of DD is shrinking, which makes it unattractive as an advertising platform, when compared to satellite channels,” says Navin Khemka, CEO, Mediacom South Asia.

A look at the weekly viewership data from the Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) shows that despite the robust distribution base, DD fails to make a mark on the ratings chart. The top channels in the rural areas as well, are the free-to-air (FTA) channels from the private broadcasters, and in the urban areas, paid channels rule the roost. The only time a DD channel figures on the list is in case of a major sporting event. “With the DD free dish, FTA channels seem to be good alternatives. And advertisers choose if they really need DD beyond these channels to reach out to their audiences and accordingly push advertising,” Sodhani explains. 

Sahu says that it is unfair to compare DD with private channels. "For one, funding is an issue and so we have not been able to bring out fresh content as often as we would like. Secondly, we have to operate within the definition of a public service broadcaster, and the content is governed by this mandate. However, we are trying to bring on socially relevant content, which is interesting and appealing. We have the credibility when it comes to news, we need to make the content."

Even if DD does manage to make over and attract a new band of advertisers, the channel will not be the only one that brands seek out to ride into small town markets. Khemka says, “Even for products and services (like farming tools) which may be specific to rural areas, advertisers would prefer an FTA news channel.” Exclusivity may be a long shot but DD does want to stay in the game.

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