World Media 2006: India

Audience fragmentation means adspend levels are low but multinational media owners are here and believe India's huge and youthful population offers massive potential for growth.

Few nations offer up as many contradictions as India. For a start, the concept of nation is barely adequate to describe a federation of cultures and languages (there are 28 Indian states) every bit as diverse as the European Union. Then there is the poverty and social exclusion that sits uncomfortably alongside the country's manifest economic aspirations.

India, after all, has its own space programme, and its consistent GDP growth of more than 5 per cent a year places it alongside comparable emerging economic powerhouses such as Brazil, Russia and China.

Yet its image to the outside world is often that of an ill-fated third-world country. For example, India was particularly badly hit by the tsunami of December 2004.

Media is one economic sector in which it fails, arguably, to punch its weight. Advertising expenditure remains below 0.5 per cent of GDP, a puny level for a supposedly emergent economy. The fragmented nature of the market - both in terms of audience and ownership - has more than a little to do with this.

There are, for instance, 295 (and counting) commercial television stations but only one, DD1, the public service broadcasting company's flagship channel, comes anywhere near the status of a universally available national entity.

The advent of cable and satellite has not been much of a catalyst for progress, either. A large number of Indian households (it is believed) access multichannel TV on low-tech networks run by pirate cable operators, with little or nothing in the way of subscription revenues filtering back to the content owners.

In such an entrepreneurial economy, you can tear up your conventional business models - and there is relatively little idea of who is viewing what. This is particularly frustrating for multinational media owners - and thanks to India's liberal regulatory regime since the mid-90s, the likes of News Corporation, Sony, Disney and Viacom are now here in earnest.

Despite the slow progress, there are those who continue to believe that India offers the biggest potential media opportunities of any nation on earth - for indigenous and international media owners alike. After all, half of India's one billion population is under 24 years old and, when given the chance, these young people are enthusiastic consumers.

ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1= Rs47.19. *Estimated Total TV Newspapers Magazines Radio 1994 727 216 440 0 20 1995 863 247 541 0 22 1996 1,043 342 617 0 24 1997 1,241 435 715 0 25 1998 1,184 471 582 0 22 1999 1,329 524 658 0 32 2000 1,579 620 774 0 40 2001 1,818 737 712 167 50 2002 1,971 825 772 158 57 2003 2,465 925 1,163 153 63 2004 3,039 1,081 1,520 183 71 2005 3,705 1,223 1,944 265 74 2006* 4,151 1,315 2,273 267 79 2007* 4,609 1,434 2,479 370 84 2008* 5,249 1,629 2,838 430 88 Total Outdoor Online Cinema 1994 727 47 0 2 1995 863 51 0 2 1996 1,043 57 0 2 1997 1,241 64 0 2 1998 1,184 104 0 5 1999 1,329 108 1 5 2000 1,579 132 6 8 2001 1,818 137 8 7 2002 1,971 137 8 13 2003 2,465 139 8 14 2004 3,039 157 9 18 2005 3,705 166 10 24 2006* 4,151 179 11 26 2007* 4,609 199 13 29 2008* 5,249 216 17 32 Adspend notes 1) Includes production costs. 2) Includes agency commission. 3) Includes classified advertising. 4) After discounts. 5) Newspapers include magazines until 2000. FACTFILE Highest circulating titles - Newspaper: The Times of India (daily, 2,321,000 copies) - Business magazine: Business World (weekly, 147,000 copies) - Consumer magazine: Reader's Digest (monthly, 476,000 copies) Top TV shows - Most watched TV programme (2004): Kaun Banega Crorepati?, the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? - Best new TV format: Indian Idol Major measurement tools - Circulation: Indian Readership Survey - Readership: ABC, Register of Newspapers for India - TV viewing: TAM (AC Nielsen) Main media owners - Newspapers: Bennett, Coleman and Co, Bhaskar Prakashan - Magazines: India Today - Television: Doordarshan (public), News Corporation, Zee

THE LOWDOWN

Media topic du jour: Despite calls for a crackdown on intrusive reporting, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, the minister in charge of media affairs, has confirmed the government's desire to continue with a light-touch regulatory regime.

Reigning media guru and why: Only in India could you actually have an advisory company called Media Guru. Its director is Sanjay Salil.

Media mogul to be seen dining with: The world is currently beating a path to the table of Subhash Chandra, said to be the second-richest Indian, with a personal fortune of $1.7 billion. An astute deal-maker, he has a growing presence in TV and other digital media.

Car to drive: Tata Indica V2.

Phone to carry: Motorola L6.

Whatever you do, don't say: That Natwar Singh is a cheerful chap, isn't he?

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