Zubair Ashraf Khan, Group GM, DiGi Media Company talks about the expansion of the DiGi network and market share growth of cable TV in Pakistan
Synergyzer: Briefly tell us about your company and its vision.
Zubair: Digi Media Company (DMC) was launched in 2011 initially covering a few areas in Karachi with the aim to centralize the scattered cable industry across Pakistan. With a professional team and mindset we started with an aim to bring order and organization to the industry. we entered a joint venture agreement with Solo Media Group; a cable network group that has excellent penetration in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Multan, Quetta, Islamabad etc. Due to this alliance, we are the largest cable network company of Pakistan, operating in all major cities.
“Cable advertising was able to secure more than PKR 2 billion in spending in 2015.”
Synergyzer: What is your business model?
Zubair: Firstly, we wanted DiGi to be a cable network company that will take the cable network industry to the next level. For this, we carried out buyouts of a number of cable operators with small scale infrastructures. Hence, we are co-managing such cable networks with our identity prominent on their cable channels with the logos of FW Cinema and Solo Cinema on our in-house channels broadcasting legal content.
Secondly, we wanted to provide advertisers an alternative to existing mediums i.e. TV, radio, OOH, print etc. and cost effective advertising rates to run ads in a targeted manner; i.e. in selected regions or nationwide. Hence with certain small scale cable operators, we initiated strategic partnerships by acting as media buyers since having offices in major cities of Pakistan gave us the advantage of being able to secure ads from corporate advertisers, an option that was not available to many cable operators in smaller cities. Through such strategic partnerships we are now the biggest cable network in Pakistan.
“A serious challenge for Cable TV is incurring the cost of buying legal content.”
Synergyzer: How much share did cable advertising secure in 2015?
Zubair: Cable advertising was able to secure more than PKR 2 billion in spending in 2015, majorly due to media buying agencies including Group M, Starcom, T Media, Interflow Blitz etc. that made advertisers aware of the medium and followed the lead initially set by EFU, Mobilink, GSK, PTCL, Candyland, EBM, Tapal etc.
Synergyzer: In your opinion will cable advertising take share from TV advertising budgets in 2016?
Zubair: We are expecting more than PKR 3 billion in market share in 2016. In 2015, agencies and advertisers who approach us directly for ad placements, mostly from the real estate sector, put high budgets for advertising on cable TV. Advertisers are fast realizing that cable TV can give results at a fraction of the cost of advertising on satellite and terrestrial TV channels, for this reason a number of multinational companies are also looking to delegate huge budgets to cable advertising in 2016.
“We have invested around PKR 2 billion in this industry in the last 5 years”
Synergyzer: What are the major challenges faced by cable channels that lead to advertisers shying away from the medium. How are you planning on addressing those problems?
Zubair: A serious challenge for cable TV is incurring the cost of buying legal content, and lack of education in local cable operators on how to expand their setups poses another complication. DiGi has taken steps to address the pirated content issue by procuring 100% legal content, which consists of thousands of Hollywood and Bollywood movies with content verified by PAS – Pakistan Advertisers Society valid till 2017.
Synergyzer: Ad tracking of cable advertising is a major concern for advertising and media decision makers. Do you have a solution for your clients in that regard?
Zubair: There are solutions available for cable tracking in cosmopolitan cities, however there are approximately 1,100 cable operators across Pakistan; each running 3 to 5 in-house channels according to their license issued by PEMRA. With almost 3,300 channels to track, a large infrastructure needs to be deployed which demands a huge investment.
Synergyzer: How does political advertising affect cable channels?
Zubair: Political ad campaigns don’t usually run that long, and are mostly focused on the OOH medium and satellite TV. These campaigns are however quite expensive and contribute significantly to the revenues of cable TV operators.
Synergyzer: Do you have plans to invest in improving the infrastructure of your cable network?
Zubair: We have invested around PKR 2 billion in this industry in the last 5 years; in infrastructure, legal content and strategic buyouts of local cable operators across 31 cities of Pakistan to expand our cable coverage nationwide. Moving forward, we are planning on upgrading our in-house channels by screening similar caliber of legal content that we get on satellite TV.
Synergyzer: Do you expect any new genres of content to be introduced by cable networks to compete with TV channels?
Zubair: We have developed channels like WOW and MAX on DiGi/Solo specifically for children and teenagers, which are similar to Cartoon Network and HBO. We are further adding dedicated channels for specific genres such as comedy and our objective is to raise the quality bar of content shown on in-house Cable TV channels.
Synergyzer: Electronic media plays a major part in shaping mindsets of any community through the content it provides. What is your take on that, considering that our news and entertainment channels are currently providing sensationalized content versus content that may help in mindset evolution? Can cable TV content influence that in anyway?
Zubair: According to Medialogic, in-house cable channels were the second most watched genre in 2013 and 2014 after entertainment. The fact that news and media channels create panic is advantageous for in-house cable TV channels. We provide the break people need from the mainstream fear-speak by giving people music, movies and comedy contributing to a healthier environment.