Pakistan Government Ad Spend Cuts Trigger Media Business Shakeout

Pakistan's 88 billion rupee media industry is in the midst of a major shakeout after a long period of rapid double-digit growth since the turn of the century. Hundreds of journalists and other staff have lost their jobs. At least one TV channel, Waqt News, has closed while several others are downsizing. While such consolidation was long overdue after nearly two-decade long period of explosive growth, the PTI government's decision to reduce advertising budget, which constitutes nearly a quarter of all ad spending in the country, appears to be the main trigger. Those affected by consolidation are accusing the government of exercising press censorship by cutting its ad spending.

Pakistan Ad Spending. Source: Aurora/Dawn

Rapid Growth:

Rising buying power of rapidly expanding middle class in Pakistan drove the nation's media advertising revenue up 14% to a record Rs. 76.2 billion 2016 and another 12% to Rs. 88 billion in 2017, making the country's media market among the world's fastest growing media markets.

Global Advertising Growth 2016. Source: Magna

Industry Shakeout:

Massive commercial media growth in Pakistan has been most apparent in terms of private TV channels growing from just one in Year 2000 to over 100 today after President Musharraf's deregulation of electronic and other media.

Explosive growth with many new entrants is the fundamental business reason for the recent wave of consolidation and shakeout. Shakeout is a business term used to describe the consolidation of an industry or sector after it has experienced a period of rapid growth in demand followed by oversupply.

At least one TV channel, Waqt News owned by Nawai-Waqt Media Group, has closed while several others are downsizing.  “We are trying to compile exact figures of the affected media persons. So far, we can say that around 1,000-1,500 workers have lost their jobs or faced cuts in salaries in the past few weeks,” Muhammad Afzal Butt, president of one the main factions of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) told  The News Sunday (TNS) this week.

Government Spending:

About a quarter of Rs. 80 billion ad revenue comes from federal and provincial government ads in the media. Some of the TV channels receive as much as 50% of their revenue from the government.

"The government has cut its media spend by more than 70% and companies by almost 50%", according to a leading advertising agency owner who spoke to Dawn.

Global Advertising Growth 2018. Source: Magna


"The (federal) government used to spend some Rs. 10 billion on advertisements annually, which was increased up to Rs35 billion in the last years of the (Nawaz Sharif's PMLN) government," Fawad Chaudhry,  federal minister of information,  told The News Sunday (TNS).  This tax-payers’ money, says the minister, was used by the previous government to bribe the media for favorable coverage.

Digital Adverstising:

Growing slice of the media ad spend is being claimed by online advertising with accelerating broadband penetration in Pakistan. Most recent data from Pakistan Telecommunications Authority shows that 62 million Pakistanis now subscribe to mobile broadband and this number is increasing by one to two million new subscribers each month.

Digital media spending rose 27% in 2015-16 over prior year, the fastest of all the media platforms. It was followed by 20% increase in radio, 13% in television, 12% in print and 6% in outdoor advertising, according to data published by Aurora media market research.

Summary:

Significant reduction in government spending on advertising has triggered a long-overdue shakeout after almost two decades of rapid media growth in Pakistan. About a quarter of Rs. 80 billion ad revenue comes from federal and provincial government ads in the media. Some of the TV channels receive as much as 50% of their revenue from the government.  Hundreds of journalists and other staff have lost their jobs. At least one TV channel, Waqt, has closed while several others are downsizing. Those affected by consolidation are accusing the government of exercising press censorship by cutting its ad spending.


Here's a video discussion on Pakistani media business with Misbah Azam, Sabahat Ashraf and Riaz Haq.


https://youtu.be/Nz1axuB5j-Q





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Comments

Riaz Haq said…
DIGITAL SPENDS IN PAKISTAN WILL GROW BY 47% IN 2018 – MAGNA STUDY

According to Magna, Pakistan’s advertising market is expected to grow by 13.7% in 2018, reaching $916 million. Magna’s intelligence team found that 73% of media spends are concentrated on television, with spending growing by 14% in 2018.

The report found that the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy and Pakistan’s surprise win over India contributed towards strong ratings, as did the Pakistan Super League initiated by Habib Bank Limited and Spark/Blitz of Publicis Groupe.

“The 2018 Elections are expected to create inventory shortage and generate double-digit inflation,” said the report. “In 2019 the Cricket World Cup will be a massive driver, yet again. Digital media is under-developed with just 3% of total media revenues, but growing quickly (+47% in 2018). Social Media is the fastest growing internet category (+70% in 2018), with already 16% of the population being active of which 14% through mobile devices.”


http://www.madvertising.pk/magna-apac-advertising-will-grow-7/
Riaz Haq said…
The dawn of advertising in Pakistan (1947-2017)

https://www.dawn.com/news/1398497

Pakistan’s first digital companies were born from small departments, developing websites within larger software development companies. From thereon, until as late as 2006, two years after the entry of Facebook and a year after YouTube came into existence, it never occurred to anyone how user-unfriendly these websites were.

They were fully functional, but they lacked aesthetics and did not even attempt to make the user experience easy. The flaw was that technology people are very good with coding but useless at design and communication.

In 2008, the multinational companies began to wake up to the opportunity and did the smart thing – they asked their advertising agencies to develop their websites or at the least, design them so that the software houses could build a better user experience.

Oddly, most agency owners failed to spot the opportunity this presented. However, along the way, something happened independently that forced the advertising agencies to look at digital as a viable source of revenue.

Between 2000 and 2010, agency revenues had started to shrink. Revenues from print jobs had gone as clients preferred to work directly with the printing presses. Then came the media buying houses and the agencies lost their commission revenue on media. Finally, as more and more film directors started to work directly with clients, TVC production also went, resulting in the closure of in-agency AV departments.

Desperate, the agency owners looked for anything that seemed like an opportunity and the fact that the software houses were so bad creatively, was a good way to generate some revenue.

Of course, in typical Pakistani agency tradition, they did it in the most unprofessional way. Interns, fresh out of college, were hired to handle their clients’ digital requirements. By 2010, blue-chip companies began to take an interest in social media.

Although the first digital agencies had started popping up in early 2000s, it was not until 10 years later that they began receiving serious business propositions. Along the way, clients experienced many frustrating moments, not least because if the software houses lacked creativity, the agencies lacked technological know-how in equal measure.

It has been a long journey. However, today, the frustration has shifted from the client end to the digital agency end, which, to their credit, eventually managed to evolve at a breathtaking speed. It was the clients that were lagging behind.

Even as late as 2015, 26 years after the birth of the World Wide Web, most clients still thought a digital presence meant only having lots of ‘likes’ on Facebook posts; quite astonishing, considering that the version of the software I am using to write this article will be outdated in less than six months. So imagine the frustration digital agencies experience when their clients are still living in 2006.

So, while during the late nineties and early 2000s, agencies spent much of their time trying to catch up with their clients’ digital requirements, today, the clients are the ones who need to catch up with global trends. And they must do so quickly. There was a time when each country could conceivably choose to adopt technology at their own pace; today, this is no longer practical, simply because the speed in the evolution of technology does not permit this any longer.

What is required is the rapid synchronisation in the digital capabilities of the digital agencies and of their clients in Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
Dwindling advertisement revenues for print and electronic media in Pakistan have brought several news organisations on the verge of closure or staff layoffs in hundreds. According to the chief executive of a leading advertisement firm in Islamabad, the private sector—including banks, textile industry and telecom firms—has slashed their advertisement budget by 50 per cent during the past few years.

https://www.newslaundry.com/2018/11/22/pakistan-media-spend-ownership-layoffs


The executive also said the provincial governments of Punjab, Sindh—the main contributors of advertisement revenues for print and electronic media—and the central government in Islamabad have slashed their advertisement budget by 70 per cent, leaving the media industry in a bad financial situation.

A compilation of advertising spend collected from multiple sources, Dawn reported, estimates that the market size has grown from Rs 66.9 billion in the financial year 2015 to Rs 87.7 billion in 2017. However, the growth share of electronic and print media shows a decline.

This is also evident from the inability of media organisations to pay salary to their staffers and layoffs of hundreds of journalists in Pakistan. Afzal Butt, president of the Pakistan Federal Union of journalists, said that over the past eight months, nearly 500 journalists lost their jobs due to the bad financial situation.


Last month, Waqt Television, a leading news channels owned by the financially-strong Nawa-e-Waqt group of newspapers, decided to shut down its operations suddenly. No prior notice was given to its employees. It closed down all bureaux in different parts of the country and asked its employees to leave the premises of the TV station immediately.

For both electronic and print media in Pakistan, government advertisements act as the backbone of their finances. “The government, both provincial and central government in Islamabad buy airtime in leading television channels during prime time hours (sic) this subsidises their financial operations,” said a senior government executive. Similarly, governments subsidise operations of leading newspapers by providing them with advertisement revenues.


In August 2018, the Pakistan senate was informed that the government provided advertisements worth Rs 15.74 billion to print and electronic media from 2013 to 2017. In the initial year of its growth, electronic media in Pakistan was greatly dependent on advertisement revenues from big telecom firms for their financial strength. The situation is not the same anymore.

“During the last few years, major telecom companies have slashed their advertisement budgets … They (telecom companies) started with a big budget in 2000 and proved to be a lifeline for the newspaper industry,” says Fasih-ur-Rehman, political editor of a local newspaper. “Economic crunch led to slashing of their advertisement budget,” he added.


An analysis in Dawn states: “The newspaper industry has its own demons to overcome. Watching resignedly as companies took a substantial portion of their media spend from print to digital platforms to reach out to their target markets, the good-old trusted newspaper is faced with a mortal threat as incomes fall drastically.” It adds, “Thus starved of resources, newspapers and magazines have shed pages and created redundancies of their own. Some are finding it hard to pay salaries to their retained employees, contributing to the unrest and the increasingly vocal protest among journalists and other workers in the industry”.

On October 9, the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists staged a protest in front of Parliament house. The entire leadership of the National Press Club was in attendance at the protest demonstration in front of the Parliament building.
Riaz Haq said…
Journalist Saleem Safi accuses #PMLN and #NawazSharif of corrupting #Pakistan #media with "Lifafa" (Checkbook) #Journalism in #Pakistan. #Lifafa #corruption https://youtu.be/YoqA_W0qJ8o via @YouTube
Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan #digital #media a threat to broadcast industry. Digital media will soon be replacing broadcast media in #Pakistan. Pak digital media credited for taking up issues that are not covered by #broadcast or #print media which adhere to different rules. https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/04/opinion/pakistans-digital-media-a-threat-to-broadcast-industry/

Last year, one of Pakistan’s most watched television news channels, Waqt News, shut down, citing financial reasons. Tribune 24/7, an English-language news channel owned by Express Media Group, one of Pakistan’s largest media conglomerates, fired more than 100 employees and shut down in a similar fashion. The fact that two news channels owned by two of Pakistan’s most well-established media groups shut down abruptly was a warning sign that more channels might shut down in the future and that digital media are set to replace Pakistan’s broadcast-media landscape.

However, what really frustrated Pakistan’s broadcast industry was when emerging digital-media outlets got the opportunity for an exclusive press conference with Finance Minister Asad Umer. This did not sit well with broadcast journalists, and they criticized the press conference and referred to digital-media journalists as “social-media activists” and “Asad Umer’s social-media team” among other things.

But their frustration was not actually regarding being unable to score an important press conference, but the fact that digital media are the future and will soon be replacing broadcast media in Pakistan. The broadcast media are engaging in an “us vs them” debate as described by the website Bolo Jawan, which commented that they are being threatened by the rising trend in digital media and, because of the financial crunch in the country, when it comes to the broadcast-media landscape, things do not look promising.

Pakistan’s digital media are credited for taking up issues that would not be otherwise covered by broadcast or print media as they adhere to different rules. This does not necessarily mean that the digital media are entirely free from restrictions, as attacks on journalists and those associated with the media are common and digital media do not get any special privileges either. Despite that, Pakistan’s digital media have touched upon topics that have often been considered taboo, such as the debate regarding the blasphemy law, normalizing relations with Israel and LGBTQIA rights. This has not saved digital media from any criticism, since Pakistan is a highly conservative country religiously and culturally, but debates regarding such topics are something the digital media need to be credited for.

There were about 44.6 million Internet users in Pakistan in 2017, with an Internet penetration rate of 21.8%. Those numbers are expected to rise in coming years. It might look like a dark future for the state of the broadcast industry, but in order to keep up with the rising trend of digital media, broadcasters must quickly immerse themselves in the country’s digital-media landscape, as print did when broadcast media were a new phenomenon. The broadcast industry does possess the resources to do so, but if it fails to take steps, people serving in that industry will suffer, and no amount of criticism of digital media will be able to save them.


Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan electronic media regulator auctions 70 licenses for #satellite TV: 8 new channels in #news category, 27 in #entertainment, 12 channels of #regional languages, 12 in #education, 5 in #sports, four in #health and 2 in the #agriculture category. https://www.dawn.com/news/1479795

The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on Wednesday initiated an auction at its headquarters in Islamabad for the issuance of 70 more licences for satellite TV broadcast stations.

The auction will continue until tomorrow during which licences will be auctioned in seven categories — news, current affairs, education, sports, health, entertainment and agriculture.

Representatives from 187 companies have been participating in the auction.

According to the details, licences for eight new channels will be offered in news category, 27 in entertainment, 12 channels of regional languages, 12 in education, five in sports, four in health and two in the agriculture category.

As many as 21 companies participated in the open-bid round for auction of eight licences for news and current affairs. Out of the 35 companies pre-qualified for the auction, 14 didn't take part. Al Kamal Media Private Company placed the highest bid in the sector at Rs283.5 million.

Pemra Chairman Saleem Baig inaugurated the auction. In his speech, he said that 70 licences will be issued today. He hoped that each TV channel would provide livelihood to a large number of people.

He said that the authority works in consultation with all stakeholders. Currently 88 local TV channels and 227 radio channels are being operated in the country. He said that eight Internet Protocol TV licences have been issued, besides one DTH which is expected to be operational soon.

The Pemra chairman expressed his hope that today's auction would be held in a transparent manner.

Out of the total 70, 47 licences in three categories — news and current affairs, entertainment and regional satellite TVs — will be auctioned today.

The base price for news and current affairs TV licence has been fixed at Rs63.5m, entertainment TV licence at Rs48.5m, and regional at Rs10m. The successful bidder will have to submit 15 per cent of the bidding price today.

Pakistan Broadcasters Association's objection
A day earlier, the Pakistan Broadcasters Association (PBA) had criticised Pemra's decision to conduct an auction without taking up a petition filed by PBA against the proposal.

The association has now appealed to the prime minister to intervene and stop the process. According to a press release, the PBA had filed the petition in compliance with an order of the Sindh High Court.

“The present cable network in Pakistan is based on the analogue system, which has a capacity to carry a maximum of 80 channels at a given time. But since Pemra has already issued 121 licences for satellite TV broadcast stations, at least 40 channels cannot be aired," it read.

“Therefore, issuance of more licences will put a large number of channels off the air, resulting in irrecoverable losses to the media industry at a time when it is already suffering due to the economic slowdown,” the press release said.

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