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DD looks far ahead

V Krishnaswamy | August 02, 2003

Everyone likes to portray Doordarshan as an organisation run by a bunch of bungling bureaucrats. I think that's complete nonsense.

At a time when many channels are trying to convince everyone that their TRP ratings aren't falling through the floor, Doordarshan has no such worries.

It's the same for All India Radio, despite the proliferation of FM channels. DD may not be the most-watched channel in urban areas, but it has a huge constituency in rural areas, where people still think 'Doordarshan' is the generic name for television.

But there's another reason why Doordarshan's critics should hold their fire. India is scheduled to play two test matches against New Zealand and that will be followed by a 10-match triangular series with New Zealand and Australia in October.

Probably for the first time, the Prasar Bharati marketing team has actually put thought into creating advertising packages. They put together a clever mix that forced advertisers to buy a joint package involving both DD and AIR.

The result has been that AIR's revenues have risen dramatically. Since DD holds the rights to all international cricket played in India, its package could hardly be ignored.

Prasar Bharati may well have taken a cue from private media companies like the India Today Group or the Times Group, which cross-leverage their various media properties.

It's been a smart move on the part of Prasar Bharati -- which now has a pro-active marketing director, Vijayalaxmi Chhabra -- to beat the private companies at their own game.

Naturally, with the combined reach that DD and AIR have, it is simply unbeatable. We could now see a new era in which the slumbering giant will awaken and give the others a tough time.

In early July, when Prasar Bharati began selling its inventory of advertising slots, they were all grabbed in three days flat. That's hardly surprising.

Cricket is still the one event guaranteed to draw viewers. Besides that, with all the ruckus about CAS, DD seemed like the best bet. Further, it has all the rights.

The smartest move that Prasar Bharati's marketing arm made was to club AIR with Doordarshan. Then, within DD, they sold packages together for DD Sports and DD National.

As far as DD is concerned, DD Sports is fairly low in terms of preference for advertisers, but when clubbed with DD National, there is little choice for them but to pick both.

For the India-West Indies series in India last year, all AIR managed was a measly Rs 50 lakh, while Doordarshan got Rs 53 crore. This time around, DD's pickings have been Rs 88 crore and AIR has got Rs 2.7 crore.

So the combined package has meant that AIR, which normally gets a pittance in terms of advertising, has raked in sums it could never have dreamt about earlier.

What's more, the marketing was done in a manner that gave preference to 'loyal' advertisers and those who bought in bulk. So, this time the 'one-off' advertisers had to wait and see if there was anything left for them. And in this case, there wasn't much left.

For DD, Prasar Bharati chalked out a plan, which involved three presenting sponsors and eight associate sponsors. They alone accounted for Rs 27 crore (Rs 270 million) of the Rs 88 crore (Rs 880 million) committed.

The three presenting sponsors will be Pepsi, Hero Honda and Hindustan Lever, each putting up Rs 4 crore (Rs 40 million), while the five associate sponsors -- Maruti Udyog, Perfetti, LG Electronics, Castrol and Pidilite -- will fork out Rs 3 crore (Rs 30 million) each.

The spot buys were picked on the a first-come-first-serve basis, but they too had to take the entire package -- AIR and DD combined. With spot buys pegged at Rs 75,000 for one-dayers plus Rs 35,000 for Test matches on DD Sports and Rs 65,000 plus Rs 35,000 for Tests on DD National, the collections have been superb. The buzz is that Prasar Bharati actually had to turn down many other sponsors.

This comprehensive and transparent system of selling has attracted many first-timers like Pfizer, Adidas, Birla SunLife Insurance, Pizza Hut and Essel Group's Playwin.

As of now, DD is also planning its programming in such a way that it does not impede the actual coverage -- like missing out on the first ball of an over or a replay.

Maybe that's the best news for the viewer, who is otherwise often reduced to seeing five-ball overs and irritating cuts for advertising spots.

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