Here is why the friendly neighbourhood cable TV is becoming popular among advertisers, and a pain for bigger channels

It is expected that the cable TV advertising will grow 30 percent by next year, as compared to a squeeze among the satellite channels

Have you seen those channels on cable television giving updates on your neighbourhood, or playing music in your regional language?

These are cable TV channels – much more rustic than their more glamorous and chic ‘mainstream’ cousins – and are provided to you via coaxial cables or through optical fiber cable located on your premises.

But guess what, these poorer cousins are beginning to give a run to the bigger channels on their money. And that is because the viewership for these channels is increasing, thereby bringing more interest of the advertisers.

In fact, big brands are turning their heads to cable television and this is why the ad spend on these channels are going big.

Brands like HUL and Procter & Gamble are spending on cable television for advertisement. And the big names of e-commerce firms are among the biggest spenders on cable TV.

“Currently, the e-commerce players are heaviest on our FTA network followed by FMCG and auto sector. Lot of startups have started approaching us because they want to advertise in specific markets and we offer 150 channels per state. They try to take markets where they are relevant,” said Sharad Alwe, MD, Update, a cable TV advertising agency in an interview to Moneycontrol.

Some of the big brands that are preferring cable TV include Renault, Maruti Suzuki, Amazon, Flipkart, Paytm, Phonepay, Nestle, Godrej, among others.

How are brands benefiting by advertising on cable TV?

According to Alwe, cable TV reaches over 120 million households across India. Plus, advertisers can buy at the city level, district level or state level.

This means that via cable TV brands can go to smaller markets thanks to geo-targeted channels. Advertisers can select markets where they are relevant and also go regional to establish greater connect.

“We offer you Nagpur-Pune or we can give you district like Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg at district level or you can take the whole Maharashtra,” he explained.

He added that “since last three years we are seeing a trend of people demanding more towns which are non-metros. The metros spend has started reducing – the top four metros- Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru. Now people are demanding for smaller cities, Nashik, Kolhapur.”

What Update is offering marketers?

India has around 5,000 channels run by cable TV network out of which Update has consolidated 2,500 such channels in various genres like movies, local news, music and devotional channels.

With 150 channels per state, Update offers 10 second ad slots for the price of Rs 12 to Rs 15 per channel.

“So, around Rs 1,800 to Rs 2,000 is what we charge per 10 second per state for 150 channels,” said Alwe.

Alwe pointed out that cable TV advertising currently falls in the range of Rs 100 crore to Rs 120 crore and is expected to grow 30 percent by next year.

Adding to this growth will be the festive period.

“We have seen 50-60 percent rise during the festive season in this market. Customers who come for specifically for festive period there we charge 15 percent to 20 percent more, said Alwe.

Betting big on the festive period and also taking into consideration the positive impact cable TV channels have seen after the New Trai Order (NTO), Alwe expects to do 35 percent better business this financial than last.

“If we take Mumbai then a Zee or a Sony would reach all 50,000 houses but after NTO it has come down drastically. In GEC (general entertainment channel) segment, they have fallen more than 50 percent. 20 percent people have opted for FTA (Free-To-Air) channels and amid the four broadcasters most of them have opted on an average for two channels. Currently, marketers are seeing that the FTA channels are reaching maximum audience which is also helping us,” said Alwe.

Explaining why regional is important, Alwe said that “these channels show local content and people want to know what is happening around them instead what is happening in India or around the world. Same is for music as people prefer listening to music in their own language. And I believe this has worked for us.”“Our festivals are also very regional. Hence, we give packages for particular festival. That is the advantage of going regional. And many events during festivals like Navratri and Dandiya nights or Kerala boat race are live on these channels which people are interested to watch,” he added.


Cable TV industry sees 30-35% growth in ads, all thanks to digitisation

With big brands entering the medium post digitisation, cable TV industry, as per industry estimates, is seeing ad spends of at least Rs 200 crore annually


Cable TV ads for long have been about amateur astrologers, peculiar slimming medicines or local coaching classes. But with digitisation, the medium has caught the advertisers’ fancy and how. Given the reach of the medium, national brands have now aggressively started investing in the platform. With big brands entering the medium post digitisation, cable TV industry, as per industry estimates, is seeing ad spends of at least Rs 200 crore annually. 

The shift from analog has resulted in bandwidth increase and has also seen the quality of content go up on cable TV, making the platform a lucrative one for large players such as HUL, PNG and many others to advertise on.

According to Sharad Alwe, Managing Director at cable advertising agency Update, e-commerce giants have realised the potential of cable TV and its reach of 120 million households and are spending on the medium to attract their target audience at various levels. “Brands such as Flipkart, Ola and PhonePe are heavily active on cable TVs. Thanks to the huge e-commerce brands and their ad spends, by 2020, the investments in cable TV ads is expected to touch Rs 300 crore annually,” he says.

As it turns out, cable industry, with its geo-targeted channel offerings, has now re-positioned itself as a narrow cast platform. Channels such as Abs Marathi, Majha Maharashtra, Samarth Movies, Awaaz TV, Abs Movies, Rangmanch, Aye Vision, Spn Digital, G News, GSN, Kgn Movies, Malwan Digital have come to the forefront as big cable TV networks.

Elaborating geo-targeting, Alwe, says, “By advertising on cable TV, brands can go to smaller markets and target them separately. Advertisers can now segregate choices at towns, district, SCR (socio cultural region), urban, rural and state levels. Advertising in regional language is another advantage of cable TV as it establishes a greater connect with the audience. Brands also plan their content in a way that it is relatable and relevant to the audience of a certain area.”

“Post New Tariff Order, cable channels reach all households and promises 100 per cent reach whereas satellite channels’ reach has dropped based on the subscription plans. Cable TVs now have channels in separate genres like movies, news, music, devotional and each of them have brands using them for advertising based on their product category,” he explains.

Update offers their client a bouquet of 2500 cable channels to choose from based on their market and volume share.

According to experts, cable TV ads are growing at the rate of 30-35 per cent annually.

The ad slot rates at the district level are between Rs20/10 seconds and Rs30/10 seconds, at the SCR (socio cultural region) level, the rates go up to between Rs200/10 seconds and Rs300/10 seconds, whereas at the state level, the rates are higher and stand at Rs1000/10 seconds-Rs1200/10 seconds.

Cable TV networks across the country have reaped the benefits of this growth. For instance, Madhya Pradesh based DIGIANA cable TV network has seen a huge paradigm shift in the type of advertisers who come to them. “We initially had ad billings of close to Rs 2.5 lakh a month. But post digitisation, it has gone up to Rs 20 lakh a month on an average. Compared to only local players earlier, we now have brands such as HUL, Phone Pe, Renault, Flipkart, Ola, Kalyan Jewelers, Mahindra Holidays and many others advertising with us.  A little over 50 per cent of the billing is from national players,” says Shritesh Dubey, Marketing Manager at DIGIANA.

Suggesting what could work best with the medium, Jyoti Kumar Bansal, CEO, PHD India, says, “The availability of content on cable TV channels has increased post digitisation. However, the platform still has a long way to go to walk into advertising plans by right.” 

“Competing with broadcast channels for media dollars may not be the route to take. Addressability and personalisation as well as a hyper local footprint could unlock the true potential of cable TV and attract advertisers to whom these attributes are valuable. Advertisers who don’t necessarily need to rely on ratings but can measure impact of advertising on these channels directly via their business impact metrics might also be more favourably disposed to using this platform,” believes Bansal.


Cable TV narrowcasting is the next big thing in the ad world

UPDATE Advertising is India’s first-ever cable advertising agency, which has grown to become the only all-India advertising concessionaire for a large number of multiple system operators (MSOs), serving over 10.7 crore households, spanning 2,192 Tier-I, II and III towns. Renowned for innovative solutions in cable advertising, UPDATE has made regional cable media the choice for corporates across India and has now introduced services in rural towns with populations below 1 lakh. Team Optimist spoke to Sharad Alwe, founder of UPDATE. Here’s what he had to say…

Team Optimist: UPDATE is India’s first-ever cable TV advertising agency. What was your idea behind coming up with such a unique platform?

Sharad Alwe: Cable movie channels gave birth to the Indian entertainment industry. In the pre-1990s period, the population, at large, craved TV entertainment due to only a restrictive DD platform at their service.

Cable TV ventured into India in 1990 and, within two years, spread like wildfire and covered the length and breadth of the country. Cable movie channels offered a relatable content mix of the latest regional movies and  started entertaining an over-100-crore population  Indiawide.

In the mid-’90s, an article published in Brand Equity (The Economic Times) showcased an over 70% viewership for regional cable channels over a combined viewership of other satellite channels (Zee, Sony and Star).

I saw this as a huge opportunity to aggregate regional cable channels and was inspired to build a unique platform that connected advertisers to regional and hyper-local consumers. This was the foundation of UPDATE Advertising and it aided the ‘consumer revolution’ by connecting advertisers with consumers.

Team Optimist: How is cable advertising different from other traditional modes of advertisement and commercials?

Sharad Alwe: In such a country as India, where 90% of its population live beyond metros, regional languages reign supreme. In such a diversified and multi-cultural country as India, consumers’ choice of content and preferences differ from locality to city to district to rural and urban areas and so on. For instance, you can’t segregate satellite channels in towns, districts, or urban and rural areas as it’s one pan-India feed, with the channel’s footprint remaining the same. Thinking about it, print media has a short shelf life and lacks audio-visual communication; it only caters to a literate audience, while radio’s only voice communication.

The regional cable platform, with over 2,500 narrowcast channels across genres and consumer-customised content, allows you to communicate a brand story, leading to better consumer engagement.

Team Optimist: Cable TV penetration in the rural areas is still a challenge. How do you plan to go penetrate the villages?

Sharad Alwe: Research data has shown that cable connects and draws high affinity in the urban and rural areas because of its latest, relatable and relevant content in the regional languages. And the biggest success of the platform can be attributed to the advertiser categories on board and their varied market choices. For instance, primarily, our auto and FMCG clients advertise in the mid-urban and rural markets, while two of our leading e-commerce clients prefer the top 150 urban cities in the country. We, as a platform, provide solutions drilled down to 600+ districts into urban and rural areas, where over 60% of the districts come under the rural classification and all these villages form part of this major universe. DTH , on the other hand, faces many problems — right from set-up cost, bad weather implications, pricing disparities, connecting the last-mile consumer and so forth.

Team Optimist: Digitisation has brought in changes to many sectors in India. What are the challenges for MSO operators in the digital era?

Sharad Alwe: Digitisation in television in 2017 was a boon for the regional cable platform. It ensured that picture quality was upgraded and that the sound quality was gold standard level. Digitisation meant there was an increase in the bandwidth of channel offerings to the consumer.

The regional cable operators turned into ‘local narrowcasters’ because there was a growing consumer demand for localized and relevant content. They successfully filled the content gap left by national and regional broadcasters. Besides, with OTT platforms eating into the GEC markets, this change is our next big opportunity. The ‘cablewallahs’ can now compete with satellite TV networks with multi-genre channel launches. That’s why, they expanded from movies to news to music and devotional channels with localised relatable and relevant content.

These local narrowcasters have deep knowledge of this multi-cultural Bharat and have decided to launch the news genre, offering hyper-local news, ensuring that subscribers receive content that matters to them. They created over 275 news channels that have world-class studio facilities and OB vans. That’s why, the picture and sound quality is as good as any other national news channel.

We have music channels across India and each of them is unique as they offer a flavour of local culture. Local lads from Punjab have made it big because their talent was showcased on cable talent shows. Their music is now universally praised and heard. And so is the case for such markets as Assam, Manipur, west Uttar Pradesh, Vidarbha and so on.

The other kind of very popular and most-watched channels from us is the devotional ones. Spiritual following is phenomenal across pockets of Bharat and these channels bring live aartis and pujas of locally popular deities. Telecast discourses and satsangs from gurus who command a huge and loyal audience — whether it’s for gurbani from the local gurdwaras at Pathankot, or the live aartis at the Mahalaxmi Temple from Kolhapur, or the Balaji Temple at Tirupati. Not just the devotional channels, but also all the genres have a loyal audience. This means that every advertising message reaches 120 million households.

The other two prominent ad solutions, Boot-up Screen and EPG, also provide more than 1 billion views a day with presence across all subscribed channels on the set-top box. With digitisation, our platform has been streamlined, which is why the LCO has decreased and you’ll discover that big and medium-term MSOs are ruling the market.

Team Optimist: How is UPDATE changing the cable TV advertising ecosystem in India? What are your priorities?

Sharad Alwe: We’ve been in this business for over 27 years and, during this period, we’ve ensured that the platform evolves for the better. To bring transparency into the business, we’ve introduced ‘monitoring’ of this medium and ensured that there’s a sense of trust in this platform. Manual intervention was cited as an entry barrier by corporate. So, we initiated the ‘upgradation from manual to software-based ad scheduling’ by distributing switchers to the operators.

We understood how the industry dynamics were changing. So, the platform evolved again. This time, we had a tie-up with the media-certified body, TAM, to bring in third-party monitoring to build more credibility for this platform. And, recently, we’ve also taken a leadership role in the process and system review initiated by Ernst & Young, one of the Big 4.

Team Optimist: From a cable operator to a local broadcaster — being an industry expert, what’s your take on this transformation of India?

Sharad Alwe: I perceived the trend a few years ago. The digital divide in the country was slowly becoming clear and was widening. You were being told to use newspapers, radio, or an outdoor platform to advertise for regional-level connect as TV doesn’t reach or connect there. What they didn’t tell you is that regional cable TV was already there and it could focus your advertising to the people, not just by region, but by city, too.

You could use a narrowcast platform to reach the right audience in a language of their choice and we have several case studies that prove that advertising on our narrowcast platform is a huge advantage.

With 2017 TV digitisation, the regional cable operator turned into a ‘local narrowcaster’ and became more powerful with multi-genre channel offerings with standard picture and sound quality as on satellite TV. Now, if an advertiser wants minimum spillage and maximum reach, they should give up the tired idea of old school media planning hoping that local print or radio will rescue them. There’s data that will back up claims that the whole world is moving towards narrowcasting. Whoever gets on the bandwagon now will surely profit.

I’m happy to be an evangelist for TV narrowcasting as I realised what a valuable treasure it is. I’m not making tall claims, there’s data to prove it. And, with UPDATE Geotargeting, we can help advertisers drill down to a precision, targeting a city, district, urban, rural SCR and state level and come out on top.

Team Optimist: What are your plans for UPDATE in the next 5 years?

Sharad Alwe: I’m proud to have seen the trend in the industry some time ago and we’re working towards strengthening a rock-solid, data-backed universe of cable, or local narrowcasters. Over the past couple of years, we’ve curated and now can confirm over 2,500 narrowcast channels that offer exceptional localised and relatable content that the audience enjoys. We also have clients across categories that have seen the results of using the UPDATE Geotarget platform.

Over the next five years, we want to consolidate our position and show more advertisers the results of geotargeting. Television narrowcasting, as an idea, was new, but the numbers have proven that we’re right. I only want to go ahead from here.


Geo-targeted advertising: The time has come

In the last ten years, the world of advertising has made huge strides, has seen disruptions, and has created many challenges as well as opportunities.

The world has gone digital and disrupted the way we view entertainment. It also created a huge opportunity to reach out to new customers with products and services like never before. New geographical markets opened up as well. Digital delivery through the World Wide Web (WWW) also meant that advertising was being used as a gun blindfolded.

You just shot an ad and hoped the customers and potential new customers would watch it. There was more spillage than intended. Instead of getting maximum returns, advertisers were getting conjectures. But crossing your fingers is not how you would want to advertise. Self-taught experts sprung up and made a quick buck at the expense of those working with real data.

This presents real challenges when it comes to making a real difference and offering real, tangible results. Advertisers want to target potential customers in markets where the yield is highest. But they are aware of the growing costs of reaching these customers and want to make sure that there is little or no spillage.

That brings us to a fabulous innovation: Geo-targeting.

Geo-targeting means reaching the right audience with relevant advertising in a language they understand when they are consuming content of their choice. With an environment of choosy customers, advertisers cannot take a chance of putting everyone in compartments as before. They just cannot take blanket media decisions as before.

Geo-targeting is a science that at first glance seems simple, but it takes number crunching to a very different level. It is precision targeting advertising that is backed up by data.

India is a diverse, unique market, not just geographically, but culturally as well. We may be divided technically into 29 States and 7 Union Territories with Hindi as a National language, but we cannot reach everyone with one message. Hindi itself is different. For example, Awadhi and Bhojpuri are both Hindi dialects, but so are Bundeli, Rajasthani, Chhattisgarhi, and Magahi. Punjabi is as different from the Mizo language as are Tamil from Telugu or Tulu. How do the advertisers reach the message to the right people? And what if the product itself doesn’t sell in one region? Should the consumers then be forced to watch those ads?

The people who figured out how to reach these consumers spread across the mini-continent were the original media entrepreneurs: the Cable guys. They know their consumers. What they want to watch, and when they watch it.

As per market studies, the estimated homes connected to cable delivery systems (CDS) is 12 crores which means an estimated TV audience of 60 crore Indians! Given the new scenario post the TRAI pay channel mandate, our research shows that on an average the number of pay channels subscribed for over and above the 100 FTA channels is only THIRTY. In this order, lies the fact that TRAI has earmarked 25 channels of the 100 FTA channels for cable Narrowcast channels!

These Narrowcast channels are by definition FTA and therefore available to each and every home served by CDS. Therefore, we can say that the delivery and reach of the Local cable channels is 100% of the cable homes. These channels as explained above show the latest movies catering to the local language and taste, cover local news and event live and relevant to the audience. Music and Devotional content -including live coverage – which are relevant and relatable in the local language and idiom ensure that they have a very strong local stickiness. Therefore this connect ensures great viewership.

CPRP is the measure that defines cost-effectiveness in the media business. We say that is cost efficiency and not cost effectiveness! This is because if you wanted to cover only say UP, you would have to take a bouquet of satellite channels which would have a high spillover in other Hindi speaking markets but may look good on CPRP.

But the moment you convert this to Cost per thousand homes or individuals, then the cable channels will exhibit its cost efficiency over the satellite channels and also will be effective as there will be no spill-over to any other market!

(Sharad Alwe is Managing Director at UPDATE Advertising. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of


Why is geo-targeting a need for the Indian advertising industry of today? : Sharad Alwe, Managing Director, UPDATE Advertising

‘What men! Which side you supporting?’

‘Jeetenge toh hum, miyan!’

‘Dei! Whistle podu for my team!’

This is India. It’s watching cricket religiously. And this is India which speaks cricket in many different languages. Even though it is one event, there are many different ways to reach every one of these people.

India is an evolved and a growing economy that is happy to pose many a challenge to advertisers. There is India, which speaks English and then there is Bharat, the heartland of the country where business is no longer English. It is the language spoken by the people who live in the heartland. Think Marathi. And it’s dialects. Think Hindi. And you will realise that every city has its own, unique way of communicating. Think Punjabi. Think Assamese. There are so many more!

These are people who have studied in their mother tongue and have graduated from schools and colleges and wear their badge of being ‘local’ with pride. With larger towns getting saturated for growth, India has seen smaller towns rapidly opening up for new things.

State governments have learnt to support regional capital cities and that is why so many industrial hubs have opened up all along the highways connecting state capitals to smaller towns and even villages. This has meant increased opportunities for marketers. This growth has given rise to a brand new vibrant category of tradesmen. They are very local and have a very distinct way of doing business.

Farmers in certain districts too have grown affluent over the years, and offer marketers a unique opportunity as well.

When you look at these markets you realise that there are enormous pockets of affluence at a district or SCR level. Each has its own ethos, culture, language and idiom of expression. This is the reason why advertisers like Nestle are targeting this new Mini India where regional preferences drive brand growth.

Therefore, anyone who is offers GEOTARGETING makes communication effective and ensures good ROI.

In this scenario, digital, local print, radio find favour with advertisers.This can be complemented with good audio-visual impact on the TV screen through 3000+ GEOTARGETED narrowcast FTA channels which the local cable ecosystem has developed and nurtured over the last 2 years, thanks to the digital delivery on cable!

This article is authored by Sharad Alwe, Managing Director, UPDATE Advertising*