Media Industry of Bangladesh: The Way Forward

Media Industry of Bangladesh: The Way Forward

July 21, 2016

Written by Taposh Ghosh

The media industry of Bangladesh, having to cater to an audience of 160 million people, has experienced exponential growth since its inception a few decades ago. The industry primarily consists of print, television and radio broadcast, and very recently online mass media. It has also been subject to massive shifts in cultural trends and preferences which, at the lack of an interactive media body, were sometimes very arduous to overcome. To some extent, it can be claimed that the media industry is potentially stable at current times, but the question still looms whether the industry has sufficient tools and mediums to operate effectively in catering the Bangladeshi audience.

To address such questions, the Bangladesh Brand Forum (BBF) organized a ‘Discussion on Media Industry of Bangladesh’, on a Saturday evening, last month at the Lakeshore Hotel in the capital. This was the first ever discussion of its kind and was initiated with the aim to inspire professionals in the industry and educate them about various media aspects. The vision included promoting a practice of such gatherings with a greater frequency to benefit the industry as a whole.

The event was attended by renowned media planners of the country and consisted of a series of presentations to identify the current needs of the industry as well as propose a way forward.

The Opening

The invited media professionals had already started to engage in networking on their arrival to the beautiful La-Vita Banquet Hall, even before the actual discussion commenced. The event kicked off with Ms. Samia Chowdhury Afreen, Quality Control Manager at GTV, welcoming the respected guests to this first time initiative, and acknowledging Bangladesh Brand Forum’s effort in organizing the event. This was followed by a moment of silence to mourn the death of Syed Fahim Munaim, CEO of Maasranga Television.

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Mr. Shariful Islam, Founder and MD of Bangladesh Brand Forum, took the stage next to start a formal discussion. He delivered a hearty welcome note, shedding some light on the nine year journey of Bangladesh Brand Forum since its inception in 2007 and how it has attempted to highlight local brands by assisting them, creating a ripple effect throughout the country and the economy.

He streamed his speech towards the subject at hand, the Bangladeshi media. Focusing on the journey so far, Mr. Shariful Islam stressed on the importance of media in the economy and how more effective tools and mediums can help the industry flourish further. Having mentioned the role of key players in the industry, he stated the purpose of the discussion, which was to propose what should be done to improve the media industry and how BBF can play the role of a facilitator in achieving that.

The formal presentation started focusing on the demography of the audience and how the strength of the country lies within the youth, having a median age of only 24. However, this also brought into discussion the issue of the lack of engagement by the youth into traditional media, naming broadcast and print. The youth of the country is attracted more into the digital space. The lack of relevant content in creating engagement is another issue which planners need to look into, as stated by Mr. Shariful Islam.

Powered by youth, as pointed out by Mr.  Sharif, the economy of the country is also experiencing an epitome of growth. The potential of this growth in the future has been a much discussed issue over the years now, but the query remains; are we ready to take advantage of this growth potential?

Bangladesh’s Media Landscape

Mr. Tanveer Faruq, Manager, Media and Events, Unilever, commenced the next set of presentations. The brief history of the evolution and journey of media in our country had shed light upon in this segment. The improvement of technology for media devices has undoubtedly been one of the major components for the growth of the industry. Better technology has improved accessibility and now media is able to reach even the furthest rural regions of our country, thanks to television and radio. The improvement has also opened doors to newer media platforms, such as the digital space which was only introduced to us back in the 1990s.

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But despite having an age of over 7 decades, the Bangladeshi media industry is still at its premature stage as claimed by Mr. Tanveer. He claimed that the digital space, alongside traditional mediums still have immense potential which the industry has yet to take advantage of.

Next in line was Mr. Shikdar Akhtar Uz Zaman, Head of Media, Grameenphone. Mr. Shikdar’s discussed how trend of media reach in Bangladesh has changed over the last decade. His set of statistics pointed out that television is still the most preferred medium, with a weekly reach of about 76%. However, reach of print and radio mediums have remained pretty stagnant and have lesser growth potential. But internet’s reach is growing at a significant pace and this should be not be taken lightly. His statistics also projected that the current worth of the Bangladeshi media industry is a whopping 27 billion Taka and is only expected to rise with an annual growth rate of 10-12%.

Mr. Shujan Mahmud, DGM, Media, PRAN-RFL Group, stepped in next to carry the presentations through and talk about the growth of the media industry in Bangladesh. His set of statistics stated that the overall size of the industry has doubled over the past five years. The television industry has experienced a 200% growth, print having a 150% growth, and radio experiencing a massive 350% growth. But what stood out was that the digital platform has experienced an enormous growth of 1500% over the past five years. To put a comparison to the growth that the media industry has experienced, Mr. Shujan also stated that the FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) Industry has only been experiencing an annual growth rate of less than 10%.

He also talked about how much media planners spend each year on individual mediums. Television and print are still the two leading mediums with expenditure percentages of 42 and 35 respective

ly. Radio follows with 10% and the digital mediums come in last with only 4%. Such spending patterns raise the question as to whether the right amount of money is being spent on the right mediums.

Analyzing Media Channels

Mr. Shariful Islam invited Mr. Ebne Hasan, Director, Sales and Marketing, Channel I, Mr. Ajoy Kumar Kundu, Director, Media, Mediacom, and Mr. Aman Ashraf Faiz, Managing Director, Gazi TV, to carry the discussion forward by analyzing the existing media channels. The presenters started off by thanking BBF for the initiative and Mr. Aman took over to lead the segment from there onwards.

Mr. Aman began by focusing on the television medium and how this segment is experiencing a growth, with the number of TV channels doubling every five years. Currently there are 25 operating channels with a few more in the pipeline, waiting to start operations. Specialization has also been a recent phenomenon in TV industry with channels being dedicated to music and news. However, the journey for TV channels is not as flower strewn as it sounds. These channels are operating at minimum profits, with the only source of income being that from advertiser revenue. Every year, almost 80 billion Taka is paid to cable operators, which is not passed down to the TV channels. With increasing content, people, and operations cost and no revenue being generated from consumers or the content, a dire need for relevant data and strategic directions exists for the betterment of this industry.

The print industry is also facing a IMG_0203similar no or low profit situation with increasing people, content and operations cost. Despite having incomes from consumer and advertiser revenue, it was stated that only a handful of newspaper publications actually generate profits. Having a stagnant growth rate, this industry has almost no readership data and low audience feedback.

The industry has also seen a 350% increase in the number of radio stations throughout the country. However, most of these are situated in the capital only. Similar to print and television mediums, no viable data are available for radio listenership as well. And whatever data is available is premature listenership data in the diary method and are skewed in Dhaka.

Mr. Aman also focused on the impact of Indian TV channels on the local media industry towards the end of his presentation and stressed on the need for research and data throughout all the different media channels.

Importance of Research and Data

It was evident in the previous segment that the media industry lacked research and data tools which to a great extent restricts the industry from achieving its true potential. Thus, the next segment concentrated on addressing the need for data and how important and significant availability of data is in decision making.

Mr. Mazhar Chowdhury, MD, Havas Media Bangladesh Ltd., began by evaluating media research in Bangladesh. Mr. Mazhar talked about the popular research tools used in the industry today for measuring viewership, readership and listenership. However, most of these tools are not as effective and efficient as most people think. There are creditability and acceptability issues relating to data available for TV viewership through the rapid meter tool. Similar is the story for newspaper readership which is not dynamic and the only source being the NMS/NMDS which are only conducted every two years. Data on radio listenership is at its premature stage according to Mr. Mazhar, and no credible data is available about online behavior of consumers either.

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In addition, data is hardly used in decision making throughout the audience due to its credibility and authenticity. Also, only a few players operate in the date research market and surveys are infrequent. However the future looks promising with technologies such as the video eyeball tracker and face recognition software for real-time authentic data across multiple screens and real time audience engagement data on internet platforms.

A simple yet brilliant example of how data can help us make better decisions was put up by Mr. Morshed Alam, Executive Director, Mindshare. He showed how using curves representing percentage of audience reached and Gross Rating Point can help us determine the optimal efficiency point and avoid wastage in advertising costs. Talking about global trends he pointed out how the industry has shifted from fighting over buying TV spots to evaluating decisions on a basis on cost per thousand people reached and also ROI (Return on Investment). This trend is also expected to change in the near future to a more awareness based planning with evaluations being done with percentage increase ‘top of the mind’ resulting from media strategies.

Mr. Morshed also emphasized on the transparency of data in terms on viewership, listenership, and readership, preferably thoroughly independent data audits. Knowledge of what the audience wants to see is as important as data itself. Combined together can only the true potential of data be unleashed in predicting consumer behavior and creating opportunities for media planners.

IMG_0292To shed light on a rather interesting use of data as a currency, Mr. Ziauddin Adil, CEO, Top of Mind, took the stage next. He set up the example of Oztam, an Australian based data company which uses a sophisticated people metering system called Unitam which captures viewing to all broadcast television channels on all TV sets in panel homes. This enables the company to provide TV channels operators with instant feedbacks and overnight reports.

He also showed how data is used in other countries such as India and Singapore. While talking about Sri Lanka, Mr. Morshed pointed out the facts that despite having only 70% of Bangladesh’s media spending budget, Sri Lanka has a media industry maturity which is far ahead of ours; all thanks to proper use of data. Mr. Morshed ended his speech saying that the countries mentioned had been at the stage in which Bangladesh is operating at the moment and in the way forward, we have a lot to learn from them.

Bangladesh Media Forum

Mr. Shariful Islam took on the stage one final time for the evening to raise the question as to how can all the potential relating to the Bangladesh media industry be unlocked. And the obvious answer was to work collectively under a single platform. A platform where everyone in the sector can be of assistance to each other. Thus the Bangladesh Media Forum was proposed with the vision:

“To Create A Platform Where The Bangladeshi Media Community Can Discuss, Debate And Plan A More Transparent & Accountable Media Industry Towards Progress.”

The objectives of the proposed Bangladesh Media Forum include:

  • Promoting media-best practices towards commercial media management
  • Educating and enhancing capability of the media industry professionals
  • Developing data centric approach and promoting credible measurement system across media platforms (TV, Print, Radio, Digital, etc.)

With these objectives in mind, a Phase 1 plan was introduced, which included selection of an Ad Hoc Committee, driving of the core objectives, and finalizing detail charter for the Media Forum. To support this, a six-month action plan was also put forward which would work towards improving measurements for the industry, sharing of the best practices and finally skill development.

The proposal was followed by an open discussion session where the audience participated heavily and congratulated the initiators and showed their appreciation towards this attempt. Questions in the open discussion session further emphasized the need for authentic data in the industry. Also, the concern for merging TV contents with the internet platform was also raised in this session. The session ended with the initiators asking the audience to nominate members for the Ad Hoc Committee. Suggestions and feedbacks were asked to be sent at bdmediaforum@gmail.com.

Curtain Call and Thereafter

The event ended with a lavish dinner buffet and further discussions over the dinner tables regarding the prospects of such a Media Forum. The discussion ended with hopes of a successful initiation of the Bangladesh Media Forum and effective operations which could contribute to the greater success of the Bangladesh media industry.

2 Comments so far

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  1. Muhammad Sahenur
    #1 Muhammad Sahenur 28 July, 2016, 04:42

    Media Industry of Bangladesh: The Way Forward is good nice acivmet all tha bast

    Reply this comment
  2. Shakil
    #2 Shakil 13 August, 2016, 05:19

    It was an outstanding event for media related person. Hope Bangladesh Brand Forum will do their best to educate us. Thanks

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