Purkayastha, business head, Sahara One, believes it is time for some serious action to bring the channel back in the reckoning in the crowded GEC (general entertainment channel) space.
According to TAM, Sahara One garnered GRPs of 60 and 66 (C&S, HSM, 4+) for Weeks 23 and 24, respectively. Meanwhile, the top channel, STAR Plus, got ratings of 347 and 369, respectively. Zee TV, the second most popular channel, garnered ratings of 229 and 232, respectively, in these two weeks.
Sahara One was No. 8 in the GEC category with a channel share of 6 per cent in Week 24. The top two positions were taken by STAR Plus and Zee TV with channel shares of 31 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively.
The ratings and channel shares prove that Sahara One has a lot of catching up to do. Although it has been around for some time, the channel has not been able to break into the top three GEC ranks. Purkayastha explains, "In the past, Sahara failed to capitalise on its strengths. It faltered on several counts. The positioning of a few of its shows was wrong. Then, it did little to promote or back up the programmes that did do well. Third, it has no afternoon slot." She says distribution issues compounded the problem.
Purkayastha points to the third reason - the lack of an afternoon band - as one the channel is trying to fix. Currently, Sahara One runs replays of its prime time shows in the afternoon.
Media planners agree that Sahara One is a case of a near miss. Anita Nayyar, chief executive officer, MPG India, says, "The channel has a long history of fluctuating fortunes. The shows on Sahara never commanded high TRP ratings. Somehow, Sahara is perceived as a low frequency channel, more of a small city or town channel. It commands higher viewership in the smaller cities and this is proved by the fact that it is strongest in the markets of Uttar Pradesh."
Nayyar is confident that having been in the business for so long, the channel does not suffer from credibility issues. She suggests, "The need of the hour is to introduce fresh programming, keeping in mind the profile of the Sahara One viewer. With NDTV Media now its exclusive sales partner, the tide should turn in favour of Sahara One."
Purkayastha has worked with STAR Plus and NDTV Imagine and is aware of the challenges ahead. She says, "We are confident that our new show, Mata Ki Chowki, along with our old flagship shows, such as Woh Rehne Wali Mehlon Ki, Ghar Ek Sapnaa and Doli Saja Ke, will help us maintain loyal viewership and attract a new audience. Woh Rehne Wali Mehlon Ki has been on air for two years and delivers an average TVR of 1.1. This shows that even in a highly fragmented viewership, loyalty exists and contributes to the success of a channel."
Mata Ki Chowki went on air on June 9, opening with a TVR of 1.03 and garnering the highest TVR of 1.42 in the third week of May, as per TAM data.
Media watchers predict that if the show maintains a steady performance, it might prove a winner for the channel. Purkayastha reveals that Sahara One will launch a reality show in July and follow it up with another reality show in August. She refuses to share the format of the planned shows.
The idea is to taste success with differentiated content, churned by little known production houses which have done wonders for rival channels. Two such production houses are Director's Cut (Sapna Babul Ka - Bidaai) and Sphere Origins (Saat Phere - Saloni Ka Safar), which have their shows running successfully on STAR Plus and Zee TV, respectively.
Amin Lakhani, director, investment services, Group M, links the current state of affairs of Sahara One to a few failed experiments in the past. "The channel has been in the lead in innovating and experimenting with new ideas. It was the first to get Bollywood stars such as Karisma Kapur, Raveena Tandon and Sridevi to act for the small screen. Unfortunately, the shows did not fare well. Reality shows such as Indian Idol and Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) pulled in viewers for both Sony and STAR Plus, but Biggest Loser Jeetega did not for Sahara One. The way ahead is to analyse the market and launch new programmes to build its afternoon slot, which offers the viewer nothing as of now."
Lakhani emphasises that different platforms will produce varying results in acceptance of content by a specific audience. To drive home the point, he cites the example of the movie, Krrish, which was aired on, say, STAR Gold and Sahara Filmy. The movie might deliver a TVR in the range of 2.5-3 on STAR Gold, but only 1.5-2 on Filmy. So, something that may work wonderfully on STAR Plus might not fare well on Sahara One.
According to Lakhani, individual channels have to strike a fine balance between appointment based shows and non-appointment based shows, which are light hearted in nature. The channels in the fray are not short term players - all of them have deep pockets and are playing for high stakes. Lakhani concludes, "Sahara One needs to have a defined programming strategy in place, which needs to be tweaked, replaced and updated intelligently, so that the fare on offer is accepted by the audience."