ongoing tussle between the television producers and the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) is taking its toll on the performance of the broadcasters. Almost all the general entertainment channels - STAR India, Colors, Zee, Sony, NDTV Imagine, 9X and Sahara One - have been airing repeats of their programmes since November 10.
According to aMap data for C&S 4+ (November 10-13), in terms of GRPs (gross rating points), the GECs have seen a dip of 36 per cent in the primetime slot (7pm-11pm) between 10-13 November. The genres that have gained at the GECs' expense are sports, movies and music. The sports genre has seen GRPs going up by 50 per cent, while movies and music have registered a gain of 40 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively. This is in comparison to prime time (7 pm- 11pm), last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, (4-6 November).
afaqs! finds out what media planners make of the move to alternative platforms by viewers in search of their daily dose of entertainment.
Anamika Mehta, chief operating officer, Lodestar Universal Media, says, "The initial general trends are in accordance with the expectations and projections by the industry people. In general, the move of dedicated viewers of GECs to movies is natural and logical because they are moving from one entertainment genre to another. The blackout of fresh content is fuelling the growth seen in the genre. The biggest gainer is sports and this could be because of the heightened interest and momentum provided by India's win over Australia. The gain in terms of viewership will see an upswing with the India-England one day series."
Satyajit Sen, managing director, ZenithOptimedia, North, puts this decline in GEC GRPs in perspective as he points out, "You will notice that the leaders, such as STAR Plus and Zee, have witnessed a larger dip in GRPs or percentage loss as compared to the so-called smaller GECs such as 9X, or for that matter, NDTV Imagine. By and large, this phenomenon is a fallout of the fact that the channel with a larger number of viewers will naturally register a higher decline. This aspect can be understood if one makes the distinction between heavy viewing and light viewing."
Sen adds, "Similarly, small town viewers, saddled with limited options, must have stuck with a single GEC, whereas audiences in bigger places must have moved on to other genres or channels."
News has not benefited as much as movies and sports. It saw a 7 per cent increase in GRPs. Sen believes that news as a genre can be seen as peripheral content - something that viewers sample and move on. Sports are an incidental happening and have gained because of the ongoing cricket matches. Movies are the first or biggest choice for daily soap watchers because they represent long term entertainment.
For many media planners, the viewers' shift to sports and movies has not come as a surprise. Mona Jain, head, strategic investments, India Media Exchange, says she has advised her clients to move to Neo Sports because all the action now is happening on this platform.
Jain says, "By and large, GEC viewers will move to other available programming in the entertainment space itself. Had it not been for the cricket matches, the movie channels would have shown a greater increase in GRPs. With the economic slowdown being the biggest concern of our times, news as a genre should have gained on a larger scale, but surprisingly, this has not happened. In single TV viewing homes, with women relinquishing the remotes, the kids' genre, too, has seen a 6 per cent increase in GRPs."
Colors has an advantage over the others because its show, Bigg Boss, is the only one airing fresh episodes (Because of logistical reasons, Colors has been allowed to air fresh episodes of the show, which is slated to end by this week.) At the same time, the loss of Balika Vadhu's viewers will definitely hurt the channel.
Mehta reasons, "Seen from the advertising point of view, the status of Bigg Boss may not translate into much, but in terms of viewership, the show's fresh episodes will work heavily in favour of Colors. It will ensure higher sampling for it, even by viewers who never watched it before."
Media observers also do not rule out the possibility of an overall drop in TV viewing. Three reasons could be responsible for this, they say. Some sections of people would have just switched off the TV because they are not getting to watch their favourite shows. Other sections would have reduced their TV watching considerably. Still other sections would have moved on to other platforms to sample new fare.
aMap data shows an overall decline of 7 per cent in the total time spent on television during the last three days of the blackout.
Mehta concludes, "A lot now depends on how GECs play their cards. They are expected to intelligently repackage the reruns of their shows to somehow cushion the impact of the move by viewers to seek entertainment elsewhere."