Big players in the Indian television industry are desperate for striking a rapport with the upwardly mobile audience. Whether it's the new channels on the block - STAR One, Discovery Travel & Living, and Zoom, or ZEE, which has introduced a new genre of shows, or SaharaOne, which has radically revamped its programming, every TV entity is wooing the well-heeled urban viewer like never before.
To understand the motive behind this initiative, agencyfaqs! spoke to a cross-section of senior media planners.
The first reason, apparently, has to do with the trend of how channels try to follow a successful model. The domestic television industry has been witness to a new trend coming up every two to three years. In the '80s and during the glorious days of Doordarshan, airwaves were ruled by Hum Log, Buniyaad, and other soaps of its ilk. Even two decades later, with the success of Saas Bahu serials on STAR Plus, there was a marked rise of soaps on kitchen politics in other general entertainment channels as well.
"Now", according to LS Krishnan of BroadMind, a division of Group M, "is the time of experimentation. Following our tradition, channels are experimenting with different kind of shows - all of them targeted at the new set of urban audience. Channels are also trying to experiment and develop a new trend in the market as they are aware of certain gaps in Indian television programming."
And, what are those gaps, that Krishnan refers to? With every channel busy showing soaps on kitchen politics, there was little cerebral, or even remotely interesting for the man of the house. Before channels made a splash for grabbing the urban upwardly mobile viewer, there were hardly a few programmes that were meant for light-viewing.
Anita Nair, managing director, Starcom, North and East, says, "These days, male viewers are either watching news channels or programmes like comedy serials." Apart from these, urban males also watch English general entertainment channels and English movie channels.
Now, that left the advertisers in a spot. While English channels or news channels were the only available options to those advertisers interested in this particular TG, the fact that these channels lacked appointment viewing was worrisome. Adding to the problem was the issue these channels having a limited reach.
Little wonder that there's a well-known adage in advertising circles: In the Indian TV industry, even the niche channels need to be mass.
Broadcasters such as STAR are well aware of this problem and are taking remedial action. A senior STAR executive says, "STAR One will certainly increase appointment viewing among the upwardly mobile audience, which the English channels lack. The channel also hopes to bring in those viewers, who have switched off from television."
Indeed, every general entertainment channel is keen to induce prospective viewers towards appointment viewing through a process of experimentation and launching new genres of programming. Perhaps, a certain amount of weariness has been also in play.
"Instead of taking on the likes of Kyunkis... and Kahanis on STAR Plus, rival channels have decided to experiment with their programming format since they felt it was not an worthwhile idea to launch similar serials and compete with STAR Plus for the same set of audience," Krishnan adds.
Experimenting with new genre of programming, on the other hand, provided a chance for the rival channels to generate numbers. For instance, if an existing woman-oriented serial on kitchen politics gave an average TRP of between 1 and 2, a new programme can possibly give a higher TRP, and can even push up the serial among the top 50 programmes.
Another media planner says, "Sony started this new trend of programming and the channel has been successful in getting the numbers through serials such as Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin." The success of Jassi..., according to him, may have also inspired other channels to experiment with their programming with lighter kind of shows.
Now, the million-rupee question is: Will this experiment work and more importantly, will the advertisers be induced to shell out big bucks? A not-so-bullish Krishnan says, "This segment of audience is rarely loyal to any channel or programme, as it happens with STAR Plus, which has very loyal viewers. To compound the problem, TV consumption is also less in these segment of people."
Another media planner points out that FMCG companies, traditionally one of the largest media spenders and targeting the SEC B, C and D categories, are now moving to small towns and cities for brand promotion. A similar trend is visible in automobile companies such as Maruti Suzuki.
With FMCG companies looking elsewhere, will advertisers of lifestyle products be the mainstay for these channels? Krishnan of BroadMind says, "It's very difficult to ascertain whether these programmes will be exclusively watched by the SEC A+. If that doesn't happen, the channels will again be a cluttered environment catering to the SEC A and B categories also." "Perhaps, cheaper advertising rates on these niche channels could invite some lifestyle products," he adds.
Unlike Krishnan, other senior media planners are more positive. A senior media planner says, "These channels and shows are like sub-pockets within an existing mass channel. These are certain to get numbers which ensures safe investment for the advertisers."
Nair of Starcom is also pretty positive about the advertising potential of these channels. "There has been always a market for these programmes. It's just that programmers have realised this, or have started to act on this, now," she says.
She offers yet another explanation behind this mushrooming of channels. "More and more high-end brands and lifestyle products are entering the market. A few of these are tailor-made for the TG of the newly launched channels and shows. This new category of advertisers, who needed a platform to showcase their wares, and the channels have now come together as natural partners." "It's an example of a classic win-win deal," she concludes.
© 2004 agencyfaqs!