“To be number one is difficult, but to maintain the number one position is even more difficult,” remarks David Audy, president director of Indonesia’s biggest broadcaster MNC Media.
“Sometimes competitors are willing to spend, even if they know they will lose money on the program,” Audy adds, speaking on the sidelines of this year's Asia TV Forum (ATF).
“As long as they can be number one, they will do it.”
MNC is banking on better production values from a US$250 million investment in new studios to secure its lead, after its latest facilities opened for business last year.
The investment can help MNC ramp up output from 15,000 hours a year to 30,000 hours a year, Audy explains, further augmenting a 270,000-hour library.
Production prowess will help support free-to-air TV, the mainstay of MNC revenue, while adding extra agility as viewing behavior starts to fragment.
“Our long-term bet is not the platform, it is content,” Audy tells Media Business Asia.
“We want to improve our content. If you have the content, you don’t need to worry.”
Free-to-air TV makes up for 63% of Indonesian ad spend in 2016, according to estimates from Media Partners Asia, a share which should gently dip to about 60% by the end of the decade.
The country’s ad market contracted in 2015, denting revenue and profits, but returned to an upwards trend this year.
This was marked by ongoing double-digit growth for online and mobile advertising as well as steady but gradually slowing momentum for TV.
MNC benefited more than most, maintaining a strong performance over the year, mainly due to hit dramas on its flagship channel RCTI.
These productions have been local standouts at a time where other big ratings successes came from Indian and Turkish dramas on rival channel, ANTV.
As marketers draw up their spending plans for 2017, Audy is hopeful that MNC can claim a bigger slice of the ad market, currently smaller than its audience share.
At the same time, Audy wants do more with MNC’s burgeoning content library, selling shows to online video platforms as well as local pay-TV stations.
He is also sounding out the possibility of retransmission fees for MNC’s channels on pay-TV.
Almost all the value that MNC’s content delivers comes from the first window on MNC’s free-to-air channels.
So far, alternative revenue streams are small however, and are only likely to become meaningful in the medium-to-long term.
“Today, 98% of MNC revenue is from TV ads,” Audy says. “I think in the next five to ten years this revenue is going to diversify.”
Online takes on TV
Meanwhile, online and mobile segments – boosted by big investments in broadband connectivity – have started nibbling at TV’s market share.
While TV remains the dominant ad platform across Indonesia’s sprawling geography, media competition is entering a new cycle in Indonesia.
“Until last year, the source of digital growth was out-of-home and press but now TV has become a source of growth,” notes Himanshu Shekhar, CEO of media agency Mindshare Indonesia.
“Free-to-air guys are getting affected. Whether they like it or they don’t like it, that’s the reality.”
Audy is testing digital opportunities, including bespoke content over the next few years.
Any big moves that could undermine profits, however, are off the cards in the current environment.
“We will only launch if the market is ready and there are near-term profits," Audy said, in his keynote address at ATF.
"We will still do it if there aren't near-term profits," he added, "but not in a significant way."