India’s leading news media group Bennett Coleman and Company, publisher of the Times of India in English and several language dailies and periodicals and owner of more than 30 electronic and digital properties, lost considerable ad revenue in the financial year which ended on 31 March 2020. However, the group’s print and TV segments were in profit, even though ad and circulation revenues declined.
One can only surmise that print revenue may slip further in the current pandemic-ridden financial year that ends on 31 March 2021 because of decreases in circulation and ad revenue, especially in the first two quarters of the year. One rating agency expects the group’s revenues to decline by 20 to 25% in the current financial year.
As the leading news publisher in the country that has diversified to electronic and digital channels over the years, agencies nevertheless expect a recovery to ‘normal advertising revenues’ in the 2021-22 financial year. The group has taken several measures to lower costs during the pandemic, such as employee redundancies and discontinuing some of its supplements and publications. The group reportedly also has Rs 2,000 crore in liquid resources.
Overall loss but print and TV show profit
Business intelligence platform Tofler’s financial data shows that BCCL had a net loss of Rs. 451.63 crore in FY 19-20 compared to a net profit of Rs 484.27 crore in FY 18-19. Total income fell from Rs 10,467.53 crore to Rs 9,733.45 crore while revenue from operations declined from Rs 9,611.42 crore to Rs 9,254.53 crore.
BCCL’s print revenue declined by 10% from Rs 6,259.89 crore in FY 2018-19 to Rs 5,627.12 crore in FY 2019-20. Television revenue increased smartly by 16% from Rs 711.90 to Rs 826.32 in the year. Internet revenues increased by 1.7% from Rs 1,180.41 crore to Rs 1,200.34 crore in FY 2019-20. Other operations revenues increased by 9.7% from Rs 1,459.22 crore in FY 18-19 to Rs 1,600.75 crore in FY 2019-20.
Nevertheless, BCCL’s print operations, which are its largest revenue source, showed a profit of Rs 1,005 crore in FY 2019-20 compared to a higher yield of Rs 1,136.34 crore in FY 2018-19. The company’s television business showed Rs 16.41 crore profit before tax in FY 19-20 compared to the Rs 33.63 crore loss in the previous financial year.
BCCL’s ad revenue declined by 12.8% from Rs 6,155.32 crore to Rs 5,367.88 crore in FY 2019-20. Publications sales revenue also declined by 4% from Rs. 656.09 crore to Rs. 629 crore. The company’s revenue from its Internet properties and services increased by 25% from Rs 226.42 crore in FY 18-19 to Rs 284.95 crore in FY 19-20. The company’s television distribution revenue rose from Rs. 36.29 crore in the previous financial year to Rs 40.17 crore in FY 19-20. BCCL’s sales of traded products rose from Rs 1,379.94 crore to Rs 1,787.10 crore in FY 19-20. Other operating revenues fell from Rs. 1,157.36 crore to Rs 1,144.47 crore in FY 19-20.
In FY 2019-20, BCCL’s loss before tax from its Internet businesses increased from Rs 550.66 crore to Rs 837.72 crore. Its other operating revenues segment reported a loss before tax of Rs 344.60 crore compared to a profit before tax of Rs 214.28 crore in the previous financial year.
Rise in expenses
BCCL’s total expenses increased by 3.8% from Rs 9,552.13 crore to Rs 9,911.05 crore in FY 19-20. Employee costs rose 8% from Rs. 2,563.93 crore to Rs 2,767.55 crore compared to Rs 2,562.93 crore in the previous financial year. The cost of materials, including newsprint, offset plates, inks, chemicals, and other inputs declined by 24.6% in FY19-20 from Rs. 1,694.66 crore to Rs. 1,277.02 crore. This decline in input materials should correlate with loss of circulation and reduced pagination and advertising in the year. However, ‘other expenses’ rose 10.8% from 4,053.59 crore to Rs 4,493.91 crore in FY 19-20.
BCCL’s news media business in print has The Times of India and The Economic Times as its flagship dailies in English published from numerous cities across the country. Its regional language dailies include Navbharat Times in Hindi, Maharashtra Times in Marathi, Vijay Karnataka in Kannada, and Ei Samay in Bengali. It also publishes Filmfare and Femina magazines.
BCCL’s other ad platforms include outdoor and indoor signage, news, entertainment television, radio, and music channels. The group’s approximately 30 Internet properties are part of a wholly-owned subsidiary, Times Internet. Its radio channels are part of its Entertainment Network India company, in which it has a 71.15% promoter’s equity holding.