afaqs!

GECs to offer more to the viewers

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | May 25, 2009
Following a lull of 40 days during the IPL, GECs are ready to revitalise themselves. Armed with a host of new shows, the channels attempt to comeback with a bang

The 40 day long IPL (Indian Premier League) drew to an end on May 24. With that, general entertainment channels (GECs) are pulling up their socks and getting back into the groove. The lull for the GECs, which otherwise lead the television space, is finally over. With the curtains falling on the IPL, the channels are busy launching new shows.

Sony is unveiling its new look on May 25 and introducing six new shows; NDTV Imagine is launching two new shows; 9X, trying to get a new lease of life, is also coming up with two programmes; Zee TV has planned two shows for immediate launch; STAR Plus has four new shows lined up for its audience; and Colors has two fresh shows in its kitty.

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Mona Jain, head, strategic investments, India, India Media Exchange (IMX, a division of Publicis Groupe Media in India), says, "GECs should begin to launch shows which are carried up to the Diwali season - clients will see more value in doing that. As most companies in durables and automobiles have spent the money in the IPL and will take a breather - their next season will begin in September. These will be keen on properties that cover them up in that season as well."

When all GECs are launching an array of shows, which channel enjoys the advantage of being the safest bet for the advertisers? "There is no preferred GEC - whichever comes with an interesting concept, is aligned to its brand proposition and reaches its consumer in a powerful manner will be the preferred choice of the advertisers," affirms a media expert.

According to Jain, when the audience is shifting back to the GECs, the players, in order to leverage this lull after the IPL, should introduce good programming, "get into a launch phase and get them glued to their channels with least fragmentation - everyone's dream. All the players will have only one objective - to get their share of revenues from advertisers. Small channels could be operating on lower base of commitments, while big ones operate on higher base of commitment from the advertisers."

The channels in the top fray are expecting that viewers will sample the new fare on top channels first, thus reflecting on the viewership of the channel. However, everyone is of the opinion that it is the content of the shows and not the name of the channel that will determine its fate.

Anupama Mandloi, senior creative director, STAR Plus, says, "Viewers are very quick in picking out their likes and dislikes, so I don't think the number of new shows will dictate ratings to as large an extent as the quality of these new shows. Our endeavour is to entertain and we will keep our viewers engrossed in high energy game shows, besides good fiction dramas. As we go forward, there will be a lot of new shows and time bands that will open up."

She adds that the channel will continue to innovate and raise the bar with superlative content and positive programming. STAR Plus will launch Mitwa-Phool Kamal Ke (love story with a backdrop of honour killing) on May 27; Aap Ki Kachehri (AKK) Season 2 (that will travel to Mumbai, Delhi, Chandigarh and Kolkata) and fiction show Shraddha are in the pipeline; and Godrej Khelo Jeeto Jiyo, a corporate theme based reality game show. The channel also recently launched STAR Vivaah, a matrimony based reality show, on May 13.

The channels aim to regain the audience that may have been lost to the IPL. Vikas Varma, head, content and programming, 9X, says, "Post IPL is the best time to launch a show as there is a slight lull in the television space. Therefore, we chose to launch our offering, Bikhray Pal, on Monday (May 25). Who wanted to watch anything else but IPL during all this while - I was glued on to cricket and wouldn't have bothered to watch anything else."

The channel has made some changes in its existing programming strategy and is focussing on young couples and people below 35 years.

With Bikhray Pal, which was produced in-house by 9X, the channel is trying to breathe life into its prime time weekday slot. Currently, 9X has fresh shows including Black, Sai Bhakton Ki Sachchi Kahaniyan, Biwi O Biwi, Chandini Raatein and Kuchh Kook Hota Hai. The channel also has Fact Miss Teen India, a beauty pageant cum reality series, waiting to be launched.

With the new lineup, 9X hopes to get traction back on 9X. "People watch shows, not channels. If the content is good, people will come back to the channel."

Sony, too, is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that its new shows are able to create the initial buzz and according to the media reports, the channel is pumping nearly Rs 180 million to promote its new slate of shows. However, Danish Khan, marketing head, Sony Entertainment Television, refuses to divulge the details.

"IPL gave us the biggest promotional platform any brand could have asked for. SET Max was the place every advertiser wanted to be in during the last 40 days. Whatever inventory was left on SET Max, we got it. We bought advertising spots across 15 odd channels across various genres including news, regional and network channels," says Khan.

The channel has six new shows and the second season of Dus Ka Dum, the game show featuring Salman Khan as the anchor, lined up. The list of new fiction shows includes Palampur Express, Bhaskar Bharti, Ladies Special and a comedy show. It also has a new non-fiction property, Entertainment Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega.

He adds that after the initial buzz has been created, the shows will speak for themselves. "The shows have shaped up well and we have gone in for a change after 14 years, so we expect a steady increase in the viewership of our channel," Khan reasons.

Media experts, too, are of the opinion that promotion and intensive marketing should do the work for the GECs looking for eyeballs. "A lot of PR around the show, cutting through the clutter, will be required. Most of the GECs are launching shows and there could be an overlap of concept. Therefore, it is important to stand out and have a hook, which at least ensures sampling. Subsequently, it all depends on how engaging the show is," says Jain.

However, 9X is staying away from the marketing blitzkrieg. Varma says, "Though marketing does give a little boost initially, in the long run, it does not help if the content is not good. If content and distribution is strong, then buying a whole bunch of billboard won't make a difference."

NDTV Imagine's lineup of fresh shows is ready and the first to be launched later this month will be Seeta Aur Geeta, a TV adaptation of the cult movie of the 70's of the same name. It will be followed by Rakhi Ka Swayamvar, a reality show.

According to Shailja Kejriwal, executive vice-president, content, NDTV Imagine, the IPL did not have much impact on the GEC segment this time. "GECs have held ground better against the IPL this year. NDTV Imagine has in fact managed to increase its viewership and market share during this period," she asserts.

"We have seen a strong growth over the last few months and have become a consistent No. 4 channel. As we introduce new concepts and open new slots in our schedule, these shows will add further momentum to our growth. That will augur well for viewers as well as for business," states Kejriwal.

Colors, which is known for its disruptive programming strategy, has India's Got Talent and Chhote Miyan Chapter 2 lined up for the launch. The popular show, Jai Shri Krishna, will take a leap on May 28, with the protagonist Krishna stepping into adolescence.

Zee TV, not to be left behind, is introducing Pavitra Rishta, produced by Balaji Telefilms, on June 1 at 9 pm. Besides, the channel is also launching Aapki Antara, the story of a special child.

It remains to be seen which strategy and programming lineup ultimately woos the audience. However, with various channels battling it out to grab eyeballs, the ultimate winner is of course the viewer.