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Expect 2019 to be a good year for news, says Rahul Joshi

Updated : April 24, 2018 04:14 PM IST

Media firm Network18 Media and Investments on Tuesday said full-year total income rose about 26%, boosted by a strong performance of the company's regional channels.

Total income rose to Rs 1,951.48 crore for the year ended March 2018, compared to Rs 1,545.77 crore for FY 2017.

Rahul Joshi, CEO-News of Network18 and Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO of Viacom18 spoke about the results and their outlook for the company.

Edited Excerpts:

First to start with news or TV18 consolidated, it is a fairly good 16 percent growth full year and the quarterly is even better at 41 percent growth in revenues. What mainly contributed, is it that the general news did well, is it the business news, can you give us the nuances of the revenue growth?

Joshi: If you look at news, I think the good news is that the worst is behind us. In this last quarter, the final quarter for the last financial year, things started looking up. Mainstream channels have done very well for us, general news has done well on the back of our Hindi channel doing exceedingly well. So business news has picked up in revenue terms, Hindi has picked up in revenue terms. I think we have grown at more than 10 percent overall which is a very good news considering that we have had two indifferent years on the back of demonetisation and goods and services tax (GST).

What do you see in terms of FY19? Do you see a good growth in advertising and moreover it will be an election year, generally how does FY19 look to you?

Joshi: I would keep my fingers crossed but I do think FY19 should be a good year for news. There are quite a few state elections then building up to 2019, the general elections. So that is always a good trigger for news.

I do think that the government advertising will pick up in this period, the economy is back on track, most sectors doing well. I think that should have a salutary effect on advertising coming in. So I do see a healthy double-digit growth and I think we are poised – all our entire bouquet is poised for growth. We are leaders across the board.

Overall, 9.6 percent share for the network, largest broadcast network in the country, leadership in business news, leadership in general news, regional portfolio doing well for us. So I think that overall, I would say that next year looks healthy to me.

This quarter also absorbs ‘Padmavat’, so if you can take us through how film has done and more importantly entertainment channels?

Vats: It has been a good quarter for us. We have grown at 51 percent. I think it has been buoyed by the success of ‘Padmavat’, so that is what is reflecting in these numbers. More importantly we have closed the full year at 20 percent for entertainment portfolio. So that is very healthy. What is really good is that our entire portfolio has come into play when you talk of TV channels. So our viewership has expanded, most of our channels have done well but our advertisement sales portfolio now is more balanced with 30 channels there. So in a year which has just ended, where Colors has had a slightly more muted year, we have managed to deliver ad sales growth in mid-teens as well as a company and that is because of the portfolio which has been in play.

Any new launches?

Vats: This quarter we launched Colors Tamil. We have entered Tamil Nadu. It’s a tough market but I am happy to share with you that we have started well. We actually clocked 100 gross viewership in million (GVM), a triple digit mark in three weeks which is a commendable launch for any channel. It’s a long distance to go still but it’s a good start.

What would FY19 look like, are there any further plans in entertainment?

Vats: There are always so. In FY19 we will continue to expand our portfolio in regional because regional is our single most important thrust when it comes to television. We will continue to drive our digital portfolio through Voot brand and we will continue to bring in cinema but in cinema as well we are shifting our focus to regional cinema as well. So you will see lot more Marathi films. So we are continuing to look at all these as we go forward and as Rahul said, I think economy is looking up and therefore FY19 should have very good results in terms of ad sales growth.

Can you sense it in ad sales. We know for instance, most of the non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), lenders are doing well. We can see that even volume growth in fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) is fairly good. Does that show in terms of advertisers willing to bite?

Vats: Yes, it is already beginning to show and we are seeing the impact, if you look at recent months in regional for sure, so that is where FMCG comes into play, some autos come into play. So we are seeing regional for sure, we are also seeing considerable amount of growth in free to air channels as well. So the rural piece and overall consumption piece is looking strong.

What about digital? We have MoneyControl, Firstpost, we have a bunch of digital offerings, are the footfalls over there growing in leaps and bounce? Whatever we may be slowing down in television, is that showing up as a bigger growth in digital?

Joshi: The good news is that in the last quarter, even television picked up. Mainstream channels have grown more than 15 percent but the digital story for the entire year has gone by is an exceptional for us. We grew at 28 percent in an industry, which didn’t grow at that faster clip. I think MoneyControl has done very well, it grew 22 percent. Firstpost has grown more than 50 percent over last year. On a smaller base, news18.com has almost doubled its revenues. So I see that the overall 28 percent growth has been pretty healthy for us. If you look at the traffic numbers across the board, we have doubled on mobile. While we may have remained stagnant on desktops but that is the trend. I think we are set for the next year and doing exceedingly well.

Will you ever think of bringing any of these properties to the market?

Joshi: You asked this question earlier as well. At this point of time, I don’t think there are any real plans to do so but we are always open to ideas and opportunities and if anything that would create value in the company, would always look for ideas.

Any fresh initiatives in the entertainment space, any big banner films that you will be looking at?

Vats: Building on the thrust on digital, our own digital property called Voot has done very well. On a small base, we have doubled ad revenues, it is an ad supported platform but it is a second largest premium OTT ad-supported platform in the country now and we are exiting FY18 at three times the user base than what we had last time in all metrics whether you look at downloads, monthly active, watch time and we are consistently number two there as a player. There we continue to dial up, that is going to be a big one.

As I was telling you earlier, I think our regional expansion will continue. So that is the other piece which will be there. Those are the two big ones.

In film, we will look at – we have run this studio for four years in the running as a profitable studio. So we look at both topline but we are equally focused on running films profitably.
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