Is the “crisis” in Russia’s TV industry finally coming to an end?
If a forecast by J’son & Partners is to be believed, there really has been no crisis. It predicts that take-up of pay-TV services will continue to grow steadily, just as it has done up until now, to reach a figure of 45.2 million homes, equivalent to a penetration of 81%, by 2019. Both pay-TV revenues and ARPU will also increase over the same period.
Advertising is arguably a better measure of how the industry is performing and indeed of the severity of the “crisis”. TV ad spend forecasts for 2015 have to date been gloomy and actual figures for the first quarter, published by the Association of Communication Agencies of Russia (AKAR), show that spend, at €530.7 million, was 22% down on a year earlier. The biggest slump was in the cable and satellite segment, no doubt due to the restrictions that came into effect at the beginning of this year, at 59% year-on-year.
AKAR predicted that the TV ad market in Russia would contract by 17% this year. While not as pessimistic as earlier industry forecasts, especially when the ruble was crashing through the floor at the end of 2014, this was still quite a worrying figure.
Another interesting trend, noted by the local media only a few days ago, is that advertisers in Russia are now allocating their budgets more with regional than federal (national) channels. This is both saving money and allowing them to target audiences more effectively.
At the same time, the advertising restrictions on cable and satellite channels continue to be eased. Having initially been a blanket ban, they were effectively lifted on services also distributed terrestrially, then on those showing a minimum 75% Russian language content and now sports channels.
While the new 20% foreign ownership limit on Russian media is still set to come into effect, and of course seriously impact on MTG-backed CTC Media, that too could at a future date be eased.
All in all, these are interesting times in Russia’s TV industry. There has undoubtedly been a crisis, and it is still far from over, but things are slowly improving.