Is afternoon a good time for GECs?

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | October 27, 2008
While Zee and STAR Plus continue to have original content in the afternoon slot, Colors has clicked with its strategy of reruns

Shanti, produced

by UTV, and Swabhiman, directed by Mahesh Bhatt and written by Shobha De, redefined television viewing in India: They were the first daily shows on Indian television. However, this is not their only claim to fame. These two shows also introduced a new primetime on Indian television - the afternoon time band.

The boom in the afternoon time band has continued in the cable and satellite era. Amongst the top three general entertainment channels (GECs) in the country, STAR Plus and Sony Entertainment Television (SET) aired original content in this time band and earned sizeable viewership and revenue. Although SET has done away with this time band for the past four years or so, Zee has introduced fresh programming from 2007.

The scenario for this time band is in flux now, especially with the entry of the new players, 9X, NDTV Imagine and Colors.

Apart from STAR Plus and Zee TV, none of the Hindi GECs have original daily soaps in the afternoon time band. Among the new entrants, both 9X and NDTV Imagine had introduced original content, but had to scrap it at a later stage. While 9X had three shows, Neelanjana, Veeranwali and Rasm-e-Rasoi (a cookery show), NDTV Imagine had IndiaDhanush (a travel show).

Today, Neelanjana and Veeranwali on 9X and IndiaDhanush on NDTV Imagine have met their logical end, but have not been replaced by any fresh programming. Rasm-e-Rasoi continues to be on air.

The other channels, SAB, Sahara One, STAR One and Colors, prefer to air reruns of their popular shows in the afternoon.

The strategy seems to have worked for Colors, which shares the No. 2 slot in the time band with Zee; STAR Plus continues to be the leader.

As per TAM media research, STAR Plus enjoys 27 per cent channel share in this time slot, while Colors and Zee have 16 per cent share each (C&S, 4+, HSM, 12 noon-3.30 pm).

afaqs! explores whether it makes sense to have original programming in the second primetime.

Mona Jain

Amin Lakhani

Anooj Kapoor

Anupama Mandloi

Ajay BhalwankarAccording to Mona Jain, head, strategic investments, India Media Exchange, the concept of exclusive viewership is almost over and primetime repeat is as good as a fresh programme. Her rationale is that the original primetime, which is the evening time band, is fragmented with the entry of new channels. This implies that there will always be a sizeable chunk of viewers who will miss some of the daily shows in the evening primetime band.

"In such a scenario, producing original content becomes an expensive affair. And if one doesn't get high delivery in terms of viewership and revenue, investment in a new property doesn't make sense," she says.

Balika Vadhu on Colors is a great example. It is repeated five times in a day and accounts for 25 per cent of the channel's viewership.

Another senior media planner concurs with Jain. She says that earlier, the competition in the evening primetime was among STAR Plus, Zee and SET, but now, there are as many as 11 GECs. It's impossible for any viewer to catch up on all the popular programmes - this makes repeat telecast a sound strategy.

"Besides, the newer channels are currently fighting to consolidate their evening primetime. Only when they are successful in strengthening their evening slot will they try their luck with the afternoon primetime," says Amin Lakhani, director, Central Trading group, Group M.

Another section of media planners is of the opinion that good scheduling drives afternoon viewership and is also more cost effective for advertisers. And that's the reason why most channels bank on reruns. "If the advertisers buy space for the evening primetime, they get bonus points and can get afternoon space at a reduced rate," says a senior media buyer.

The afternoon primetime is considered the second best bet for generating viewership and revenue for channels. For instance, STAR Plus and Zee command almost 40 per cent of their primetime rates in the afternoon slot. Industry estimates suggest that the primetime ad rate per 10 seconds on STAR Plus is Rs 75,000; in the afternoon time band, it is Rs 10,000. Zee gets around Rs 7,500 for the afternoon band, whereas for the primetime band, it commands nearly Rs 50,000. Colors gets around Rs 65,000 for the primetime band and Rs 7,500-8,000 for the afternoon slot.

The rest of the Hindi GECs get about 20-30 per cent of their primetime rates in the afternoon time band.

Broadcasters share the opinions expressed by the media planners and buyers, and have strategised their programming accordingly. As Anooj Kapoor, business head, SAB, says, "There is too much of clutter during the evening primetime. So, it was a deliberate attempt to focus on reruns during the afternoon slot."

"The first objective is to strengthen the primetime, and then try to focus on other slots. If you see, all our recent shows are skewed towards females. So, we are focusing on building their interest by showing the reruns in the afternoon band, which, in turn, will gradually increase our evening primetime viewing," he explains.

afaqs! also contacted Colors, but the officials there declined to comment, saying that they have just entered the scene.

The market leaders, STAR Plus and Zee TV, have a different take on this.

Anupama Mandloi, senior creative director, STAR Plus, tells afaqs!, "We have built this slot and have sustained and promoted it. For us, it is as important as primetime because it caters to women at home, who seek entertainment and escape. The viewers have accepted the shows and they were never meant to be a stopgap measure. Afternoon programming on STAR Plus is here to stay."

Similarly, Ajay Bhalwankar, programming head, Zee TV, says, "We have four original shows for the band and our viewership during this slot is very strong as well. The GRPs we get for the original shows telecast during this band is amazing."

Apparently, Zee is planning to come up with more fiction led programmes for this slot.

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