The war among & #BANNER1 & #the small fish in the GEC market just seems to have got hotter, with SAB claiming to have toppled over its nearest competitors STAR One and SaharaOne over the past two weeks consistently. This has happened chiefly on the basis of its youth show, 'Left Right Left', which has landed SAB in the fourth position among the GECs, with a channel share of 6.07 (Source: TAM Media Research, C&S, 4+, HSM, Week 35). Over Week 34 and 35, 'Left Right Left' (LRL) garnered highest TVRs of 1.57 and 1.62, respectively.
The three big giants remained unaffected by 'LRL'. STAR Plus, Zee and Sony garnered channel shares of 47.45, 25.01 and 10.74, respectively, among general entertainment channels (Week 35). Following SAB in the fifth and sixth positions were STAR One and SaharaOne, with 5.69 and 4.79 channel share, respectively.
In fact, on the basis of this data, SAB has been claiming that it has become the clear number one among these second-rung GECs, putting all 'doubts' of its success to rest. But if one goes by what media planners have to say about SAB's recent turn of events, then perhaps the trumpets need to be put on hold right now; it may be a bit early in the day for the channel to celebrate yet.
"SAB needs to follow up the success of 'LRL' with other shows too," says Anita Nayyar, managing director, Starcom, North India and Pakistan. "After all, consumer viewing is programme-driven, and not channel-driven."
Agrees Kajal Malik, regional director, OMS, "It is, indeed, early to say that SAB is a leader among the second-rung GECs for two reasons," she says. "First, SAB's success is driven by one show only. Next, it has toppled its competitors for only two weeks in a row, in which case it would be premature to pass a judgment."
Industry stalwarts also raise another point: if SAB bets too much on 'Left Right Left', it runs the risk of having media buyers go for slots on that show alone.
However, Vikas Bahl, senior V-P and business head, SAB, feels there is no risk in placing all the eggs in the 'LRL' basket. "The show is a daily, and it is growing week on week," Bahl says. "I think it is a risk to do what our competitors are doing: betting on format shows with a two-three-month airing period, as opposed to betting on a daily, which lends consistency to a channel."
Then why launch 'Fame X' on SAB, which is yet another format show?
"We will launch 'Fame X' only after having established the strong backing of a daily," Bahl explains. "Other channels try and do the exact opposite."
While Bahl is clear that the success of 'LRL' is indicative of where the channel is headed, Arpita Menon, vice-president, Lodestar Universal, prefers a 'wait and watch' viewpoint.
To put things into perspective, STAR One's growth has been slow in the recent past, primarily because its highest TVR fetcher, 'The Great Indian Laughter Champions', is a weekly (TVR 3.34 in Week 35), as opposed to SAB's 'LRL' which is a daily show. But STAR One will soon roll out the second season of 'Nach Baliye', which is when media planners expect the main war to begin.
"The concept of 'Nach Baliye' is a strong one, and it is worth seeing if SAB can stand tall in the face of that," Menon says. "I also believe that STAR One has, over time and after loads of trial and error, established a much stronger brand persona than SAB."
It may be noted that hardly any of SAB's shows, apart from 'LRL', are garnering TVRs more than 1 which, according to Nayyar, prove that SAB needs to bring in more consistency. But on the plus side, with 'LRL' being a daily show, some set, loyal viewers are bound to come in. "Besides, the show has a good concept, cast and packaging," Nayyar adds.
According to Malik of OMS, SAB is going through the same phase as STAR One did 8-10 months ago. Back then, its hottest selling property was 'The Great Indian Laughter Challenge' or 'TGILC', which the channel backed up with another hit, 'Nach Baliye'. It is mainly these two shows which helped STAR One get noticed by the advertisers.
But that is where the commonalities between the two channels end. "STAR One's two shows did not simply have great content; they were also backed by the STAR distribution platform, which is a big plus," Malik reflects. SAB, on the other hand, lacks that kind of reach power.
Nayyar of Starcom takes a bird's eye view, saying that SAB is perhaps suffering from an identity crisis. SAB had found its strength in comedy, after which it became a GEC. "Now, it is skewing towards youth shows, while still maintaining a comedy line-up. This is a 'neither here, nor there' situation, with SAB swinging in between."
But Bahl of SAB is quite firm about SAB having found its positioning. "Within the GEC arena, we have defined our space: that of a channel which caters to the young at heart, and not necessarily the youth alone," he says.
At present, SAB has two daily shows, 'LRL' and 'Twinkle Beauty Parlour'. The latter has shown dismal growth. "But we have introduced a fresher storyline which will boost its ratings," Bahl counters.
Malik of OMS further adds that while a TVR of 1.62 ('LRL') is good for SAB in absolute terms, it has a long way to go when compared with other GECs. "Even STAR One's 'TGILC' had posed a threat to 'Kyunki…' or a 'Kahaani…' at one point," she stresses. "I doubt that 'LRL' can do the same."
SAB's Bahl admits, "Yes, 1.62 may be a low TVR in the overall GEC scenario. But we're beefing up our distribution and reach shortly." He is also confident about the ICC Champions Trophy which will be aired simultaneously on MAX and SAB in October. This, according to Bahl, will help grab the eyeballs.
"We have a cricket property and 'Fame X' lined up to counter any shows by our competitors," he remarks. "In the long run, this will prove to be a healthy strategy."
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