Disruption in TV viewing could have long term effect

By Sangeeta Tanwar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | November 24, 2008
In addition to the short term disruption, there could be a long term effect on television viewing habits in the Hindi speaking markets if the blackout continues


entertainment channels (GECs) have always enjoyed a monopoly in the market. But now, they seem to be losing their hold because of the current blackout on them, which is the result of the ongoing disagreement between television producers and the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE).

While some viewers have moved on from GECs because their favourite daily soaps have stopped airing fresh episodes, overall television viewing has also seen a decline.

As per TAM Media Research, overall television viewing in the Hindi speaking markets (C&S, 4+, prime time) has declined by 4.2 per cent. The average GRPs (gross rating points) garnered by any channel in Weeks 42-45 was 1,472. The corresponding figure for Week 46 (the week of the blackout) was 1412, which indicates a loss of 60 GRPs.

The loss for GECs has been around 225 GRPs: The average GRPs of GECs in Weeks 42-45 was 678, which slid to 454 in Week 46.

The data clearly shows that there has been disruption in television viewing, and the immediate, most obvious effect has been on GECs. Other genres such as Hindi movies and sports - for obvious reasons - have gained from this disruption.

Interestingly, media observers are of the opinion that the loss for GECs and gain for movies and sport could have a longer term effect on television viewing - even after fresh content starts to be aired - in Hindi speaking markets, especially if the blackout continues for a long period.

Ajit Varghese, managing director, Maxus India, comes up with an interesting observation. He says, "With favourite serials and shows going off air, viewers will sample other genres and other channels within the GECs. If this situation continues for a longer time, the viewers could well get hooked on to new programming, in which case it could be difficult for the top channels to get back their original loyal viewers."

The biggest gainers in that event would be regional channels. As Varghese says, "If the viewer doesn't have anything for mass consumption in Hindi, his next logical move would be something in his own language."

Varghese's observation is borne out by TAM data, which suggests that regional GECs such as those in Bangla and Marathi have seen an increase in viewership in Week 46.

Amin Lakhani, director, central trading group, GroupM, endorses Varghese's view. He says that regional language content will see further increase in viewership. He cites an example, "The IPL (Indian Premier League) was the first happening which proved that disruption viewing could affect the GECs. Now, the blackout of GEC content presents broadcasters, advertisers and media people with the opportunity and challenge to explore and identify alternative platforms to reach out to viewers."

The disruption in set habits of television viewing will benefit not only other genres, but also certain GECs.

Basabdutta Chowdhuri, chief executive officer, Madison Media Plus, says, "The loyal viewers of the top GECs are most likely to sample newer or lower rung channels in search of fresh content. And if they get hooked on to it, it will be difficult to get them back."

Varghese of Maxus points out that the blackout has passed the remote to the men in the house. And when they get to sample other genres, infotainment, as well as news and sports, could benefit the most.

It seems that the onus is now on the GECs to mediate for a ceasefire between the producers and FWICE before they lose all they had.

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