Circa 2004: A lukewarm response to new channels

By , agencyfaqs! | In | December 27, 2004
TAM figures indicate that new channels have not quite delivered in terms of viewership

A near explosion in multi-genre television channels characterised 2004.

At least 12 new channels across genres were launched in a space of 12 months, beginning with POGO on New Year's Day 2004, followed by The History Channel, STAR Utsav, Animax, Hungama, India TV, Smile TV, Zoom, Discovery Travel and Living, STAROne, The Disney Channel and finally, Toon Disney in December.

If 2003 was the year of the news channels, 2004 clearly belonged to the multi-genre.

At the beginning of 2004, analysts said that it was a broadcasting boom. And, why not? After all, stalwarts such as STAR India, Turner, Disney and even print goliaths such as The Times of India group were keen on capitalising on the burgeoning TV audience in the country.

Statistics backed the launches. According to round 2 of the IRS 2003-04, India's 12+ population is 72.8-crore or 728-million. Of this, 37.9-crore or 379-million people watch TV, which is the universe of viewers 12 years and above. Of this, 27-crore or 270-million watch TV everyday, which is huge. "And, if the 12+ population watching TV is so much, how much more will it be for the 4+ population?,” says a senior media analyst based in Mumbai.

Naturally, media houses found support in these numbers before getting into the mechanics of a launch. As Amit Ray, executive vice-president, media, Mudra Communications, says, " Broadcasters are taking India so seriously because of the huge viewership in the country.”

But post-launch, the performance hasn't been really satisfying. If the initial viewership trends of these channels are taken into account, it seems viewers have not quite lapped up the fare.

The eight week average (October 17-December 11, 2004) of channel shares for Animax and Hungama TV, for instance, in the primary audience of C&S 4-14, SEC ABC in the top six metros is 0.18 and 0.45 respectively (source: TAM Media; compiled by Insight).

"When viewed against Nick (which got a 0.25 per cent share), Hungama's performance is better,” says K Venkateshwararao, media group head, Insight. "But its weekly performance is inconsistent. Animax, on the other hand, has the lowest channel share for the period.”

In the infotainment genre, Discovery Travel and Living and The History Channel have channel shares of 0.1 and 0.13 for the same period in the TG of C&S 15-34, SEC ABC in the top six metros. Compare it with the performance of Animal Planet, Discovery and National Geographic, which stand at 0.17, 0.51 and 0.38, respectively, and the distance that the new entrants have to traverse becomes clear. "History has come into its own since its launch, but Discovery Travel and Living has some way to go,” adds Venkateshwararao.

Incidentally, in the TG of C&S males, 15-34, SEC ABC, the performance of Discovery Travel and Living for the period has improved touching an average of 0.15 against History's and Animal Planet's 0.19, Discovery's 0.63 and National Geographic's 0.47.

In news, new entrant India TV has an average channel share of 0.44 for the eight-week, October-December period in the crucial TG of C&S males, 25+, SEC ABC in Hindi-speaking markets " the lowest in the crop of Hindi news channels. Smile TV, on the other hand, averages a share of 0.2 in the base population of C&S 4+, Hindi speaking markets as against 0.21 in the TG of C&S, 15-34, SEC ABC, Hindi-speaking markets.

The "STAR World in Hindi” or STAROne has a channel share of 0.54 in the TG of C&S 4+ as against 0.68 in the C&S15-34, SEC ABC audience segment in Hindi-speaking markets. Zoom from the Times group has an average channel share of 0.31 in a fluctuating eight-week period in the TG of C&S, 25-34, SEC AB in the top six metros.

While media planners and buyers are unanimously not very cheerful at the performance of the new channels, a complete write-off has been ruled out for the moment. "You need to give them some time,” say Ray. "Look at STAR Plus. Even it took time to become successful.”

The sentiment amongst advertisers is that of wait-and-watch. "We go case-by-case,” says Subha Sreenivasan Iyer, group media manager, Godrej. "In my opinion, certain assumptions may have gone wrong, which could be causing problems in terms of delivery.”

Sanjay Purohit, director, marketing, Cadbury India, adds, "We don't just evaluate on the basis of TRPs or viewership numbers. Qualitative factors such as the distribution and the audience have to be considered. This is the basis on which a gut call, rather than a head call, is taken.”

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