South African TV ad rates: the cost of perceptions of premium property

[box]This piece by Inge Hansen (@mecnotabene) was published first on, the website of Herman Manson, SA’s leading commentator on marketing and advertising.[/box]

markliveslogoAccording to Nielsen Ad Dynamix, television advertising spend (excluding self-promotion) in South Africa has been on a steady increase for the past few years.

In 2013, this increased by 11% from 2012 to a total of R17.9 billion which, although being a rate card figure, speaks to the value that advertisers place on this high-reach medium as a part of their media mix. However, whether this is a real increase can be debated, thanks to continued fragmentation, package offerings and limited reporting of new satellite providers, ie, Starsat.

Changes to methodology

We are also sitting in a position where multiple changes to methodology has resulted in performance being excluded as an inflation metric in the official industry numbers.

In the US, a typical hit show has an average cost-per-thousand (CPT) of US$35, with advertisers clammering to place their wares during this timeslot, just to be associated with the prestige it offers.

New to South African screens, but in its second season in the US, is The Blacklist, which commands a 30” cost of US$285 975 for premiering episodes. If this seems pricey, it’s nothing compared to NBC’s Sunday Night Football, where advertisers pay US$627 300 for their 30”advert, more than any other primetime show on American broadcast television.

[box]SEE ALSO: Inflation Watch figures show the march of DStv in ad wars, March 2013[/box]

A disproportionately valuable space

cartblancheTVgrabWhat with US TV audiences in decline, it is becoming difficult for networks to justify increasing costs and a steadily rising CPT on even the most popular shows. In some cases, however, shows are targeted to such an elusive demographic (ie young males who watch The Walking Dead) that placing brands into that environment becomes a disproportionately valuable space.

The SA equivalent to this would be Carte Blanche, which airs during the coveted Sunday night timeslot just before the M-Net 8pm movie. Past performance and programme quality have established a superior perception of this show and we can see that advertisers are, in turn, paying a premium for this property.

Using September 2013 vs September 2014 figures against all adults (TAMS), we can see that Carte Blanche has experienced slight viewership declines year-on-year, which did not lead to a decrease in rates but rather an increase of 4.5% in 2014. This is an example of local programming creating the perception of value despite CPT for September 2014 standing at a ratecard average of R244.

A demand for local programming

If we look at the top 10 most-expensive programmes on SA TV, we see a demand for local programming which is viewed primarily on free-to-air channels, and it is no surprise that the top spot was held by Generations. The exception to this is sport, which brings with it real-time viewing to a specific consumer segment, for special-occasion viewing.

Many of the most-expensive programmes in the top 10 fall within the average primetime CPT (using September 2014 ratecard data) of US$4.37 (R48.26), which is calculated across a mix of free-to-air and pay-TV channels. While these top-rated programmes do come at a price which is hefty for smaller budgets, it can be a useful component of driving awareness as quickly as possible.

Top 10 most-expensive programmes on SA TV: click to enlarge

Again, perceptions around primetime drive cost… Although advertisers start paying this primetime premium from 5pm, as defined by media owners, in this day of traffic congestion and post-work errands, the real audience lift starts closer to 6/6:30pm.

A disruptive year for TV

fifabrazilscreengrabAfter a disruptive year for TV, it has been difficult for media planners to create behavioural pictures of their target audience and buy effectively against this to deliver results to client. Our data has experienced a population update, a major sports event in the form of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, new channels, an SABC lineup adjustment and, more recently, scheduling changes which include a hiatus of the most popular primetime soapie on TV.

These changes have a knock-on effect throughout time-bands and channels as viewers alter their habits in response. Coupled with this is how rates for new and untested channels are calculated, such as with new pay-TV channels, M-Net Edge and Vuzu Amp, which began in October.

In September, the channels which these replaced (M-Net Series Showcase and M-Nnet Series Reality) had primetime rates which started at R3000, with the new channels now commanding a primetime spot rate of R8500+.

Remains to be seen

Despite introductory packages, it will remain to be seen if these rates can be justified against the audience that the content will attract. The result is that media owners will need to continue to adapt to provide quality programming that continues to hit the viewership mark, and not just the budget.

Perhaps, then, the recent announcement from MultiChoice — which revealed that due to the rand’s weakness it might be necessary to ‘scale back’ by cutting non-performing channels from its bouquet, and thereby reducing audience fragmentation — is welcome news for planners.


Inge HansenABOUT THE AUTHOR: Following two years at Media24 scrubbing for insights within the magazine division, Inge Hansen joined Nota Bene as an A&I analyst in March 2013. Working across multiple clients, including FMCG, alcohol and petroleum, she has the luxury of working with teams to develop robust insights that drive strategy while keeping abreast of media trends the world over. Inge loves having her pulse on the media landscape but far prefers raising her pulse mountain-biking on weekends. She contributes Thinking TV, a monthly analysis of South African TV viewership figures, to MarkLives. Follow @mecnotabene for regular media updates.

[box]SEE ALSO: Brazil World Cup TV viewership below expectation in SA, August 2014[/box]

Make Better Decisions. Start your Biznews Premium FREE TRIAL today.