afaqs!

Real-ity check

By Sapna Nair , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | June 10, 2009
14 weeks since its launch, Real is yet to find its foothold in the general entertainment space

Real Global Broadcasting (RGB), a 50:50 joint venture between Alva Brothers Entertainment and Turner International, launched its Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC), Real, in March this year and positioned itself as a channel featuring 'Real People, Real Stories and Real Entertainment'. Here's a lowdown on the
channel

The channel was launched with five shows in its armoury, comprising about three hours of original programming. The programming strategy was devised to break away from stereotypes. 'It is positioned for the neo-Indian - the urban oriented, outward looking and ambitious Indian seeking an alternative which is not the current stereotype. It is for men and women who enjoy watching television together' is how Sunil Lulla, director, RGB, describes the channel.

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As per TAM Media Research data on general entertainment channels, Real opened with 9 GRPs, and in the following week, it garnered 13 GRPs. As per Week 22 data, Real has managed to rake in merely 18 GRPs and a 1 per cent share of the Hindi GEC pie. However, spokespersons at Real say that it has been sampled by 71 million individuals across Hindi speaking markets in CS 15-34 ABC, which is encouraging. The highest rated show on the channel has been Sarkaar Ki Duniya, with an average 0.17 rating points.

It has been a disappointing start for the channel, as per media observers, but channel executives differ. "Real would like to give adequate time to the channel to grow its viewership base. We will experiment with different canvasses as long as they are relevant to the audience and are entertaining," says Sharada Sunder, president, RGB.

According to Divya Radhakrishnan, president, TME, not enough investments were made on the channel in terms of marketing. "A channel has to be sold like any FMCG product. Real was not able to generate much buzz around its launch or its programmes," she says.

She is also of the opinion that a programme on a GEC is marketed heavily through word of mouth. However, in this case, as there was no buzz and hardly any sampling, the word was not spread. "They should have gone the whole hog than wink in the dark," she says, adding that she isn't writing it off yet and believes that the strong network may breathe life into the channel.

A senior media planner says that the look and feel of the channel is rather dull. "In today's competitive multi-channel scenario, everything from content and packaging to graphics play a vital role in attracting eyeballs. The problem with Real has been that it hasn't got people talking," the planner says, adding that NDTV Imagine, 9X and of course, Colors, had a much better debut.

However, the channel prides on its packaging and describes it as being clean and vibrant, reflecting the brand's distinctive creative quality. "The channel's simplicity is depicted in its branding logo - the circular green logo depicting friendliness and approachability," Sunder defines.

Amin Lakhani, head, exchange, Mindshare India, gets to the root of the problem, saying that despite its low-key launch, the audience that tuned in to the channel had no reason to leave existing programmes to migrate to Real. Clearly, the channel could not ensure stickiness.

"Last year, the programmes on GECs had reached a saturation point and viewer fatigue was visible. That was leveraged by Colors and IPL (Indian Premier League) as well. That's how IPL had many viewers migrating from GECs. However, this year, with fresh content, the effect of IPL on GECs has been low," he explains.

Besides, the launch of the channel was just one month prior to the launch of the widely watched cricket property on television - the Indian Premier League. "This gave Real a very small window to get viewers to sample the channel - and it couldn't get it right then," another planner observes.

In order to get into the viewers' consideration set, Real will have to dish out content that is compelling and engaging. As Radhakrishnan says, "If a channel is not doing 60-70 GRPs, it is not in the race."

The channel plans to launch several new shows in the next few weeks. "Real is fully geared up to provide varied and distinct content for its viewers and create new genres," Sunder says. The real test of time begins.