NEW DELHI: Brands in India are exploring new methods of reaching and engaging consumers, following the recent implementation of a 12-minute cap on the number of advertising minutes per hour, with advertiser-funded programmes becoming increasingly popular. 

The Business Standard reported that while advertiser-funded programmes (AFPs) had been around for some years, the concept was now being driven primarily by brands and advertisers rather than broadcasters.

As well as circumventing the ad cap, AFPs had the added bonus of addressing rising on-demand viewership and DVR ownership, both of which enable viewers to skip traditional TV ads.

The worth of such an approach was emphasised by the marketing director of Max Bupa Health Insurance, which funded a series called Walk for Health. "We achieved way more than what we invested in terms of building awareness," said Sevantika Bhandari.

Media owners warned, however, that a long-term outlook was needed. Aditya Swamy, executive vice-president and business head of MTV, said that it could take between three and five years to achieve good returns.

This prospect of AFPs forming an alternative revenue stream is proving attractive for broadcasters. Youth channel Bindass, for example, is aiming to generate a quarter of its revenues this way.

Another factor for brands to consider is that AFPs appear to perform better on niche channels than on the more widely viewed general entertainment channels (GECs), with TVRs anywhere between two and four times higher.

In part this may be due to GECs showing advertiser-funded programming outside of primetime, in part to the lower quality sometimes associated with such programming.

"A large number of AFPs are produced cheap," observed Rohit Gupta, president of Multi Screen Media. "For smaller channels, more AFP properties mean more content, but for bigger channels, bad quality means bad returns," he added.

But TVRs are not the only consideration at work, as people increasingly use a variety of devices to consume such content, meaning that AFPs have to be platform-agnostic.

TV has become "a stepping stone for AFPs that garner more eyeballs on social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook later," said Nikhil Gandhi, executive director, ad sales, media networks, Disney UTV.

Data sourced from Business Standard; additional content by Warc staff