Media firm TV18 Broadcast has reported a consolidated net profit of Rs 8.4 crore in the quarter ended March 2017 against Rs 82.8 crore in same quarter last fiscal.
Total income from operations during the quarter stood at Rs 297.6 crore compared with Rs 302.2 crore in the year-ago quarter, the company said in its filing.
To discuss the fine print of the fourth quarter earnings and the outlook going forward, CNBC-TV18 spoke to Rahul Joshi, CEO-News, TV18 and Sudhanshu Vats, CEO, Viacom18.
Below is the verbatim transcript of the interview.
Q: First, a word on the numbers because the Q4 numbers look a bit soft. First half was good in FY17, what happened in second half because overall net profit is down 90 percent and EBITDA is down 64 percent for the full year?
Joshi: You very well know that this year for the media industry has been a tale of two halves. In the first half, we were growing pretty well. We were registering growth in high teens, but in the second half due to the circumstances that we all well know about, all media companies and entertainment companies have taken a hit. So, that explains the softness in the second half.
Most media companies are likely to de-grow this year thanks to the softness in the second half, and I think we were probably amongst the companies that may beat the trend.
Q: What is your take on that?
Vats: Just to build on what Rahul said, I think in our entertainment part of the business -- which is Viacom 18, the entertainment wing of TV18 -- first of all historically, we have grown 40 times in last nine years.
We are one of the fastest growing entertainment companies in the country. Even if you look at last year numbers (FY16) for all contemporaries, we have grown ahead of everyone else. We have been focused on growth and investment.
As Rahul pointed out, this year turned out to be a tale of two halves for all of us at media and I think because of deceleration of advertising, the second half has not grown as well as we would have liked to. The good news however is, that slowly but surely January, February, March are recovering. So, March was a better month. There is recovery as we come into it, but not complete recovery.
The other thing which has also happened for us if you look at it and I think it is because the reason you talked about profits as well, I think the way to look at it is we have made investments. So, from a plan perspective, at profit after tax (PAT) level, we have delivered ahead of our plan on our entertainment business. Having said that, if you compare to previous year, it will not compare well because we have had made investments.
Q: FY18 will be better than FY17?
Vats: Yes, without doubt but we will continue to do both things. So, therefore if you look at just on FY17, we have introduced 10 new channels. We have introduced five HD feeds of our existing channels which is three regional and Vh1 and Comedy Central. We have also deepened and widened our presence in regional through Colors Super which has got launched and we have introduced MTV Beats which is a 24x7 channel both in HD and SD.
Finally, we have made an entry into Hindi movies which we were not present in through a Hindi movie channel called Cineplex; Rishtey Cineplex was our first offering. So, we have made a lot of investment, we have made investments in other areas as well, digital, so we will continue to make investments and grow as we go forward.
Q: The business news piece we all know has done really well. It has built a bit of legacy, but general news has been a bit of a problem. CNN-News18, I think still is lagging the two leaders if I might say, you can correct me if I am wrong, and even on the Hindi news channel, while it has picked up a lot, but still not among the top three, News18 that is.
Joshi: I think if you look at where we were about a year ago, I think this year has been really a dramatic year for us. For CNBC-TV18, in the last Budget, we had a 72 percent share. This Budget, we had 86 percent share; [it's] completely unheard of.
This week - week 14 -- for the BARC numbers, CNBC-TV18 has toppled even the general news channels, including Times Now. So, I think it is on a roll. It has done exceedingly well this year. Absolutely stunning performance -- I must congratulate you and your team, you have really delivered the numbers for us this year.
Coming to Hindi, Hindi has smartly recovered. About a year ago, we had a market share of 4 percent, today we have market share of 10 percent and we are in the top five on a consistent basis. If you look at the numbers in our prime time evening, we are even in the top three. Often we beat Aaj Tak, we beat Zee News, we beat the top channels. So, I think it has been a dramatic turnaround there as well and I am very happy about it.
CNN-News18, again, if you look at the metro numbers, they have been quite heartening for us. Last year for a few weeks on a few metro cuts in mega cities we were leading. We in fact beat Times Now at that time. Even today if you look at the overall numbers, there is very little difference between the number two and three and we are a credible player. Our new generation anchors like Zakka Jacob, Bhupendra Chaubey are really delivering the numbers for us. So, very happy on the overall television news piece. I think we have done well across.
The most important thing to remember is that we are going to bet big on regional. If you look at ETV, we have launched about eight channels in the last 18 months and a lot of drag on profitability is because of these incubation losses as I call them.
Q: Which is what I was coming to, why so much focus on regional because it is clearly at least now not delivering numbers, it is only dragging right now?
Joshi: No, because if you look at the business news, it is a more mature category, it will deliver numbers for us because the markets are doing well, we are expecting a better monsoon this year. However, if you look at the real growth, it will come from regional and Hindi. Hindi has done very well for us last year, not only in terms of rating, but also in terms of revenue growth. ETV, the regional piece, I think is looking good in the longer term. You have to give it two to three years to mature, I think all ETV channels will register handsome growth in the coming years.
Q: On the digital piece, have we matured as a model where when you have a digital piece you have separate advertising for digital, separate revenues for digital, how is the digital business looking overall and do we have any kind of numbers on that?
Vats: Digital if you look at our journey, we started in May 2016 when we did the commercial launch of our over-the-top content (OTT) product Voot. The start has been fantastic. Personally, I am very satisfied and very happy with the start. We now have close to 25 million users and more importantly, we have about 40 minutes usage per user per day; arguably one of the highest in this space.
So, the first offering which we have had is advertising-led video-on-demand (VOD) and we have begun writing advertising as well. So, there is a clear focus there. However, this is just the beginning. So, as we go forward, we will build in a digital portfolio a suite of different offerings under the brand Voot where you will have offerings, which are advertising-led video-on-demand (AVOD). There will be other offerings, so, there will either be segmented offerings or there could be other business models as well which will come forward as we go along.
Personally, I am very bullish on digital as well because if you ask me, we have got to become as content players pipe and screen agnostic -- what screen consumer is consuming us on and also the pipe through which our content is going and I think that is the way to look at future.
Q: On digital clearly we are making a lot of strides, Twitter followers for CNBC-TV18 have crossed 3 lakh, we are seeing clearly a lot of visibility of Facebook. Also on Moneycontrol, we have seen a bit of a revamp, relook on Moneycontrol. What is the big move here? The market for long has been talking about monetisation of these properties, is that on the cards?
Joshi: If you look at the last year, we made rapid strides in digital. Firstpost is a dramatic turnaround. In the last year, I think we have grown our traffic five times, we have handsomely grown revenues.
If you look at Moneycontrol, again, we revamped recently. The Moneycontrol app is doing exceedingly well. Moneycontrol is really our showpiece asset today. It is by far the largest in terms of revenues, the business digital destination.
I think News18.com is turning around and more importantly, this year our big bet would be two new projects, which we will announce in due course, but definitely regional digital. On the back of the ETV brand, we will rapidly increase our presence there, a lot of investments coming up and you have to watch this space.
As far as monetisation is concerned, these are strategic long-term properties for us, so we will keep it to ourselves for the moment.
Q: So for the moment no IPO plans?
Joshi: No, not really.
Q: Two part question, thoughts on the year ahead, FY18 – Sudhanshu already said it will be better than FY17, I wanted your thoughts as well and employee cost, do they go up, especially for business news category?
Joshi: I think there seems to be absolutely no competition for CNBC-TV18. Look at the numbers, we are doing 65-70 percent share on market hours, overall numbers above 60 percent. I don’t see competition really rearing its head. I think we have already invested in employees in the last one year, and I don’t see any employee cost going up this year. In fact, last year has been in many ways across all digital and across television, it has been a case of putting the leadership in place, getting top-flight talent from across the industry, across all our news businesses. So, I am very happy about that.
I think the year ahead, as Sudhanshu pointed out, there are early signs of recovery. So we are all hopeful. By all industry estimates, everyone is predicting a 9-13 percent growth this year. We hope to ride that trend and I hope that we will do well, considering that most of our properties are in leadership and commanding positions. – Money Control