By the end of August, 7 of Thailand’s former array of 22 TV channels in the digital spectrum will have gone dark. The Secretary-General of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission acknowledged this during the week when he said that no one in 2013 could have anticipated the impact of new online platforms on the media landscape.

This week, the Chairman of the executive committee of the Nation Media Group, Shine Bunnag, revealed the future of its online business as the firm plans to consolidate its online platforms into one digital division in September. This will be combined with a new Digital Intelligence division of IT personnel who will work to transform the experience for readers and advertisers online. The media executive announced that the company hopes to double its readership with this new strategy. It comes as Thailand’s economy stutters and traditional media is also feeling the pinch. June spends were down over 5% which also saw a 6% decline in TV advertising. 

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Shine Bunnag is the Chairman of the executive committee of the Nation Media Group which is reorganising its online media platforms in September into two new divisions to drive and build upon its existing readership which the Chairman described as the ‘crude oil’ which will develop into a long term sustainable cash flow. He emphasised that the future of media was now online and identified credibility as the key value to chase. Meanwhile, at the end of August, Thailand’s digital TV spectrum will have lost 7 channels as the industry consolidates. The first half of this year and particularly June have seen TV spends come under pressure in Thailand. The Secretary-General of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission Takorn Tantasith (inset) this week said that no one could have predicted back in 2013 that online media would have impacted the TV sector so negatively.

Thailand’s economy has hit a slump this year and as if reflecting the more challenging times, 7 of 22 free broadcasting or digital TV channels will have closed or gone off air by the end of August. It comes as the Thai government earlier in 2019 offered a package to struggling TV firms to allow them to exit the stage with some dignity. Many had some years ago made huge multi-billion baht bids to get TV concessions from Thai authorities thinking they were virtual licences to print money. Not anymore, not so much due to the struggling economy but a changing media landscape as viewers and particularly younger ones, go online.

Thai government has also lost out on digital TV income after TV channel cuts

The Thai government has effectively ended up subsidising the sector which had become too competitive in what is already starting to appear as a declining market. Many of the newer TV services relied on news and political discussion programmes to attract and engage viewers. It is a far cry from the ฿51 billion that the government was expected to earn from new digital TV channels in 2013.

This was confirmed by the Secretary-General of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, Takorn Tantasith, this week who divulged that the government had earned only ฿21 billion. ‘This is not a failure of the digital TV licence auction in 2013 because the broadcasting business has changed rapidly thanks to digital disruption driven by over-the-top platforms. No one realised this trend at that time,’ he said.

Advertising spends including TV down sharply in June

In June, Nielson, the ratings company showed that advertising for the month was down by over 5% on a month on month basis for June and 2% for the first six months of the year. What is noteworthy about the data is the nearly 6% decline in terrestrial and digital TV spending for the month although for the half-year it is only down very marginally.

Transit and in-store ads the only one to rise

The only traditional media area that recorded any growth of the month was transit and instore advertising normally used to support campaigns and which has lately been used in conjunction with advertising to support online campaigns.

Magazine and newspaper face cataclysmic declines

The greatest declines were recorded in magazine and newspaper advertising which dropped by a massive 22.72% and 22.12%. It is clearly an industry that is in rapid decline in the new media world. For the half-year to the end of June, the figures are not much better, showing falls of over 21% and nearly 18% for the two media sectors.

Radio is holding its own but not for long

All traditional media is in decline with radio showing signs of being able to hold its own in the new emerging environment for now but this may not be for long as the online media platforms intrude further into everyday lives particularly in transport and cars. The significant finding is that TV is now beginning to decline. It is still the central feature of most large advertising campaigns and spends but its continued decline will precipitate an even faster movement to online media

Challenging times for advertising agencies who must adjust to what is becoming a new industry

Advertising agencies and marketing professionals are also challenged by the emerging digital online media world where targeting is just as much about technology and database mining as it is about strategy and inspiration.

Nation Media Group has moved decisively into the new online world with online news platforms

One of Thailand’s companies which has grasped the fundamental change in the market is the Nation Media Group which is now more often referred to as NMG as it moves to reposition itself as a digital company adapting to the new world of online media. 

The Nation newspaper ceased printing at the end of June after 48 years on the shelves

At the end of June, its flagship newspaper The Nation ceased to be printed and disappeared off the newspaper shelves after 48 years. Those same shelves are also disappearing with the distribution network of newsagents and middlemen in the old news trade being wiped out as newspaper readership faces even more staggering declines then advertising revenue from old fashioned newsprint ads.

Future for the Nation group is online

This week in an interview with the Krungthep Turakij newspaper, the Chairman of the NMG executive committee, Shine Bunnag, outlined the new vision for the company. Of course, it is online.

Media industry first to bear the brunt of the new digital economy as users go online for content

Mr Shine acknowledged that the media industry had been perhaps the first to be severely impacted by the new digital age. People in Thailand are increasingly going online for news and entertainment. He said that this naturally meant that advertising was now following its market online. He also particularly pointed to signs that TV was being hit especially in Thailand’s very competitive market.

Digital media will become the ‘major cash-cow’ business for the Nation group

Mr Shine revealed that the new NMG Group will be building a new digital business around its existing online platforms. He disclosed that the group currently had page views of approximately 10 million per day. This would be the focus of a renewed digital company. ‘We will fully penetrate the potential of digital media, which will be our major cash-cow business to generate revenue for the group over the next 10 years and make up for the slide in revenue of traditional media,’ he revealed.

Two new news divisions – Digital and Digital Intelligent as it brings online platforms together

He explained the company’s plans to create two news divisions, one to be called Digital and the other Digital Intelligent. He revealed that by September, the company will have brought its online digital platforms together under one roof and the company is expecting to double its number of page views within 6 months to 20 million per day.

Digital intelligence unit will be about the data

He explained the role of its Digital Intelligence unit will be to mine and organise the data about their readers so that content and advertising can be adapted to provide the best possible outcomes for online users and advertisers helping the company’s media to flourish.

Mr Shine emphasised that ‘credibility’ was the underlying value that the new company would be pursuing as it goes about its new mission. He described the current market as ‘fragmented’ and said that many of those working in the new Digital Intelligence unit would be technology professionals. 

Media personnel in the new division will have the freedom to work independently

The Chairman, at the same time, assured editorial and media personnel working within the new division that they will be free to work independently and not have to concern themselves about revenue while advertisers could depend on their message reaching the market in the right environment. ‘I want our ad buyers to be able to measure their ad campaigns banking on our media,’ he said.

Current level of page views and readership is the company’s ‘crude oil’ which will generate sustainable future cashflow

Mr Shine said that the current 10 million pageviews and associated database were the new ‘crude oil’ or ‘cash cow’ which would generate sustainable cash flow in the future. He predicted that revenue from digital or online media would grow from 15% right now to 25% over a two year period as it implements its new vision and strategy.

Further reading:

Nation newspaper to cease print edition from end of June after 48 years as it focuses on online news

Thailand is the world’s No 1 for use of social media and mobile payments to power new economy moving online

Thailand’s advertisers power the shift to online media in 2019 as print loses out to the internet

State – owned media company in Thailand announces a shift towards digital media and online activity

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