television space, the genre that witnessed the most excitement and action in 2008 was general entertainment, be it new launches, changes in programming, or the close fight for the No. 2 and No. 3 spots.
The most momentous event in this space was the dilution of STAR Plus' hegemony. The channel that held an almost 50 per cent share in 2007 was challenged first by Zee TV and then by Colors in 2008.
afaqs! does a quick flashback on the GEC war.
The opening picture: Race for No. 3
INX Media launched its flagship channel, 9X, in late 2007. The year 2008 commenced with the launch of NDTV Imagine. The move expanded the general entertainment genre further and also shook the existing players out of their complacency. STAR Plus had been reigning supreme as the No. 1 for the last eight years; Zee TV was at No. 2; and Sony - although distant in terms of relative channel share and GRPs - was firm at No. 3. 9X had not had a jump start yet.
Soon, 9X got its act together by introducing a few reality shows. In Week 17, it shared the No. 3 rank with NDTV Imagine, with both channels grabbing an 8 per cent channel share. Sony withdrew to No. 5, with a relative channel share of 7 per cent.
This race for the No. 3 spot soon hit another hurdle - the entry of Viacom18's Colors in July 2008, which changed the scenario drastically.
Colors achieved a feat very few can boast of. It had, perhaps, the most spectacular launch ever on television, and from then on, the GEC game dynamics changed nearly every week.
Colors: The race for No. 2
Colors played several winning cards with its flagship show, Fear Factor - Khatron Ke Khiladi. The show was shot entirely in the locales of South Africa with women celebrities and, most important, had Hindi film actor Akshay Kumar as the host. This helped Colors build a huge viewership base.
With an unbeatable programming lineup, marketing blitzkrieg and a brilliant distribution strategy, Colors jumped two spots to occupy the No. 3 position in the second week of its launch. In Week 31, Colors had garnered a share of 10 per cent in the overall GEC pie, beating Sony, NDTV Imagine, 9X and STAR One.
However, the battle was far from over. After the roaring success of Fear Factor, the launch of Bigg Boss 2 with actor Shilpa Shetty and the increasing popularity of Balika Vadhu brought Colors on par with Zee. In Week 37, while Zee TV managed to grab an 18 per cent share of the GEC pie, Colors moved up to 17 per cent. From then on, Colors kept inching closer to Zee, beating it on some occasions, before finally settling down in the No. 2 position from Week 40 onwards.
"Colors gained share from all the channels in the GEC space. Its share today stands at a formidable 23 per cent, second only to STAR Plus. Zee's share is down from 30 to 21 per cent. SET is a distant No. 4 at 9 per cent," says S Yesudas, chief executive officer, Media Direction.
As per the data for the last week of 2008, Colors has inched even closer to STAR Plus, with a difference of merely 4 percentage points between them. STAR Plus commands a relative share of 27 per cent.
The year was historic for the general entertainment genre also because it saw the end of three of the longest running soaps on Indian television: Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kasautii Zindagi Kay. It was a turning point for STAR Plus as well, because all three were its properties, produced by Balaji Telefilms.
"There has been a slight shift in the approach towards programming and the viewers have liked that. Different subjects and treatment of programmes was a refreshing change from the 'saas-bahu' routine," says Nikhil Rangnekar, executive director, West, Starcom India.
The proof is the ever increasing popularity of Balika Vadhu. As per TAM Media Research data for Week 39, it emerged as the most watched show on television, garnering a TVR of 6.8 and beating Bidaai on STAR Plus, which had been topping the charts till then. The two soaps continue to vie for the top spot.
Rajesh Kamat, chief executive officer, Colors, hails this as one of the most significant changes on television. "The entry of the three new players heralded a new era in the television industry of India, jolting programming from inertia and challenging the status quo. Differentiated programming was accepted," he says.
The GECs sought divine intervention by launching mythological programmes. It was a trend that every channel caught on to throughout the year. The trendsetter was Ramayana on NDTV Imagine, which garnered a significant viewership; Balaji launched its version of Mahabharat on 9X; STAR Plus had Sai Baba and Jai Maa Durga; Zee TV aired Jai Ganesh and the old Ramayan; and Colors served up Jai Shri Krishna.
The year also saw a lot of innovative content tieups between television shows and movies. Apart from star anchors - Akshay Kumar in Fear Factor, Salman Khan in Dus Ka Dum, Shilpa Shetty in Bigg Boss 2 - attracting eyeballs, film producers also tied up with television shows to promote their movies.
It seemed to be a win-win situation, as television channels witnessed an upswing in ratings when celebrities made appearances on TV shows. Abhishek Bachhan on Balika Vadhu, Aamir Khan on Dus Ka Dum and Akshay Kumar in Bigg Boss 2 worked magic on the shows' TVRs. Aamir Khan's appearance in Dus Ka Dum, for instance, drove the show's TVR to 3.38, as compared to its average TVR of 2.
In 2008, the share of the Hindi GEC genre grew to 23.4 per cent from 22.6 per cent in 2007. However, individual channels witnessed a decline in their respective shares, as more players joined the race (see chart).
STAR Plus' relative share fell to 27 per cent, whereas Zee's decreased to 20 per cent. Sony's average share in 2008 was 8 per cent; STAR One and 9X managed a 7 per cent and 6 per cent share, respectively. New entrant Colors, despite launching in the third quarter of the year, managed to grab an average share of 8 per cent, while NDTV Imagine got a 7 per cent share.
Overall, 2008 has been an action-packed year for the GECs, replete with many nail-biting moments. Media observers believe that the trend of fresh and progressive programming will become stronger in 2009. With more launches scheduled in the genre, more upheavals are on the cards, too.