Notwithstanding a 35 per cent growth in toplines in FY22 on a lower base, revenues for the print media industry will touch only 75 per cent of the pre-pandemic levels, a report said on Monday.
The sector's revenue of Rs 31,000 crore in FY20, split 70:30 between advertisement and subscriptions, had declined 40 per cent last fiscal amid the first wave. The same is expected to reach Rs 24,000-25,000 crore in FY22.
Sharp cost rationalisation measures and digitalisation of content will lead to a revival in profitability to 9-10 per cent, ratings agency CRISIL said, admitting that the bottomline will grow despite the 20-30 per cent rise in newsprint prices over the last six months.
The agency, which ratings on companies represent 40 per cent of the revenues for the sector, said credit profiles of large print media companies will be resilient, cushioned by healthy liquidity and strong balance sheets, while for the remaining ones, liquidity management will be crucial.
"The second wave has impacted ad revenues in the last quarter, as it correlates strongly with economic activity. We expect ad revenues to recover from the current quarter as economic activity revives," its director Nitesh Jain said.
As for subscription revenue, the sector is witnessing a structural change amid a shift in consumer preference towards digital news, from physical newspapers, the agency said, adding this is more prominent for English newspapers, which have a higher share in metros and tier-1 cities, where digital adoption is also higher.
The English newspapers are focusing on monetisation of content by putting premium news behind paywalls and pushing digital subscription along with print subscription, it said.
Non-English newspapers, on the other hand, had relatively resilient subscription revenue even in the first wave because of their strong roots in the hinterland, it said, adding that the overall subscription revenue loss in FY22 will be limited to 12-15 per cent of the pre-pandemic level.
Unlike the experience in Western countries, print media will remain popular in India on factors like low cover price, ability to deliver original and credible content and people's habit to read physical newspapers.
Newsprint accounts for a third of the total costs for print media companies, it said, adding that there has been an increase of up to 30 per cent in in the newsprint prices in the last six months.
The run-up in cost notwithstanding, the operating margin is expected to reach 9-10 per cent this fiscal, or 1-2 per cent lower than the pre-pandemic low of FY20.
The analysis assumes the impact of second wave to continue to subside, as is seen currently. Any subsequent resurgence in infections this fiscal and impact on economic activity thereof will be a monitorable, the agency added.