Special Report: Asia - There's life in old media yet

India's rapidly expanding print and TV industries are ripe for advertisers, Deborah Bonello says.

India, home to more than a billion people and 18 official languages, is enjoying a media boom. The TV and newspaper industries in the country are growing at a rate of 20 per cent a year, according to Ernst & Young - a growth it expects will continue for the next three to five years.

The conditions for the old-media explosion were put in place years ago, when the government lifted the ban on foreign direct investment. Foreign companies have since poured money into a market that is growing, while their own domestic industries decline.

Newspapers in India boast the kind of reach the UK's can only dream about. Print rose from 216 million to 222 million readers, according to the Indian National Readership Survey. A surge driven mainly by daily newspapers, which added a staggering 12.6 million readers over 12 months to grow to more than 203 million last year.

The statistics for TV viewing in India are equally as impressive. Last year, the medium grew 3.2 per cent to reach 112 million homes. Satellite TV has grown from 207 million individuals watching in an average week in 2005 to as many as 230 million in 2006.

Both TV and newspapers are booming, in part thanks to the growth of the Indian economy, which is expanding by 8 per cent a year. The population's disposable income is increasing, and with it the appetite to consume.

Chander Rai, the international chief executive of India Today, says: "The rise in the middle class has brought with it changing lifestyles and a hunger for a better way of life. This has increased leisure activities and fuelled the growth of traditional media."

And the ad market is growing - about 12 per cent a year, says the media agency Lodestar Universal (from $2.7 billion to $3 billion last year). Of that, 75 per cent comes from ad spend.

Increasing literacy rates are a driving force for the growth in newspaper readers, and the proliferation of choice - thanks largely to foreign investment - is also attracting new audiences as fresh, more targeted titles launch.

But can the growth be sustained? The answer is a very confident "yes".

Farokh Balsara, the industry leader, media and entertainment practice, at Ernst & Young India, says: "India is perhaps the youngest nation on Earth. Almost 70 per cent of the population is below 34. Each year, seven million people join the 20-34 age group, which is the biggest media-consuming group, and the one advertisers want to reach."

And there's lots more potential growth to be unlocked. TNS India says 359 million people who can read and understand any language still do not read any publication. Gowthaman Ragothaman, the managing director of MindShare India, adds: "There are still 120 million homes without TV. With a growing economy and a buoyant market, TV will continue to grow."

Everyone is benefiting from the boom. Media owners are selling more of their product than ever before, so advertisers are reaching more eyeballs. Shashi Sinha, the chief executive of Lodestar Universal, says that advertising has been boosted by the entrance of new sectors due to the liberalisation of government policies.

Balsara agrees: "There're about 58,000 publications ... 300-plus tele- vision channels and 900-odd radio stations. The competition is so intense that everybody is trying to come up with a better offering at a lower price, so the consumer is benefiting for sure."

That the internet (which currently only has 2 per cent penetration) is developing alongside the growth of TV and newspapers means it will be a more integrated part of media strategy, the TNS India executive vice-president, Guatam Nath, says. Most publishers and broadcasters already have fully functioning websites. "International companies are creating joint ventures, bringing with them lessons learned in the West and applying them here," he says.

India Today's Rai says Indian media owners shouldn't focus so much on the base rates of ad deals, and trade more on the "engagement" factor of some news-papers and TV stations.

The good news for the Indian media is that it has time on its side, and the luxury of the knowledge and experience of the West to address the future.

TV AND NEWSPAPERS: SURGING IN THE EAST

NEWSPAPERS

There are 230 dailies in the country. The Indian National Readership Survey 2006 covers 535 titles, of which 230 are dailies and 305 are magazines.

The Times of India (Bennett, Coleman & Co) is the most-read English daily, with 7.4 million readers. The Hindu (The Hindu Group) occupies the number-two spot with 4.05 million readers, pushing Hindustan Times (HT Media) into third spot with an estimated readership of 3.85 million.

There is also a plethora of Hindi and other-language newspapers catering to the 16 other languages in the country.The highest numbers of newspapers were published in Hindi (3,265), followed by English (873), Bengali (492), Gujarati (477), Urdu (403) and Marathi (329). Dainik Jagran is the largest-selling Hindi-language daily. There are 30 different editions of the paper. It has a circulation of around 2.4 million copies per day, and is read by more than 21.2 million readers.

TELEVISION

News Corp's Star Plus is one of the biggest players, as is Doordarshan, the public television offering, which operates 21 services, including two all-India channels, 11 regional languages channels, an international channel and a sports channel.

Two multi-channel, direct-to-home (DTH) TV operations - the Zee Group's subscription-based Dish TV and a free-to-air offering from Doordarshan - are recent arrivals on the satellite scene. A third DTH venture, Tata-Sky, launched in August this year. Television news channels have proved particularly popular, with more than 17 news channels in operation in both English and Hindu.

Sony operates a channel seen in more than 40 million homes and TVTN, part of the India Today Group, runs two 24-hour news and current affairs channels. NDTV owns three 24-hour news channels - NDTV 24x7 in English, NDTV Profit (business) and NDTV India in Hindi - and is a major news and current-affairs producer.

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