Cable television in India reaches between 11 and 18 per cent of TV audiences in most local markets, but its share of advertising revenue is disproportionately low, with an estimated £3.6-8.5 million out of a total TV spending of around £1.7 billion.
Advertisers have had plenty of reasons to give local cable a wide berth.
The channels are pretty disorganised, transmission is low quality, TV ratings agencies don't track them, and the medium is cluttered to say the least.
Into this environment - one in which as many as three crawler ads at a time obscure often dubious programming - steps MindShare India, with its new channel T-Matrix. Vikram Sakhuja, the managing director of MindShare Fulcrum, says that many of its clients see the value in reaching a well-defined number of consumers, but find the low-quality environment off-putting.
T-Matrix was launched on networks run by several Indian multi-service operators (MSOs), and is aimed at providing a cleaner, more professional band of programming for the agencies' clients. "We're trying to professionalise the space, trying to give them a controlled environment," Sakhuja says.
MindShare has linked up with several multi-service operators, who distribute four hours a day of T-Matrix programming to their set of end-cable distributors.
The MSOs receive VCDs or DVDs containing programming, complete with ad capsules as well as promotional branding - tea-time movies from Brooke Bond, the Hindustan Lever (HLL) mega-tea brand, for instance. Sakhuja says that the channel is more a value-added service for marketers than a new TV channel launch.
Other media professionals concur. Ravi Kiran, the managing director of Starcom West India, says: "Creating content syndication for clients has been done in different ways in the past - Procter & Gamble, for instance, has commissioned, acquired and aired good content. By and large it's a good thing to get into."
T-Matrix's programming mix consists of Pakistani television plays and Hindi movies, and it has acquired the cable distribution rights from the producers and other rights holders. MindShare does not have any plans to produce its own programming, though it has created packaging and an identity for the time-band and brand-specific promotions. It runs from 1pm to 5pm - which is a prime time band for housewives, and one in which, Sakhuja explains, local cable's share of TV viewing is particularly high.
While the majority of advertising on T-Matrix right now is for brands from HLL, Sakhuja says that a number of other MindShare clients are interested, and will come on board soon. Marketing the vehicle to non-Group M clients is not on the cards - at least not in the near future. He might consider offering this option once the channel is in a position to get viewership figures. Right now, as it doesn't have 100 per cent coverage in any of the markets in which it is present, the ad monitoring services don't track it, though Sakhuja says they have a pretty good estimate of how many households they are reaching from the MSOs' subscription numbers.
Launched: May 2004
Total viewers: Just under two million
Reach: Geographically targeted parts of Mumbai, Delhi and Baroda, as
well as smaller towns in the states of Uttaranchal, Rajasthan and