A similar fight for the prime band took place in Uttar Pradesh. In week 18 (starting April 29), Aaj Tak pushed its prime-band availability with immense force. It leaped from 17.4 per cent to 63.7 per cent. While a good chunk of viewers were former hyper-band served households, a significant new number came in as well. It also meant that Zee News was pushed totally out of the prime band, into the next best - colour. Surprisingly, Aaj Tak's push failed to show any results on reach.
But that may be due to another reason, for even Zee lost on reach while maintaining its availability. It sure rebounded in the election week, quite like Zee. In the last week, Aaj Tak lost some prime availability. A similar loss was mirrored in its reach for that week. Overall, Aaj Tak lost more on reach. Zee's programming and promotions seem to be helping in this state. It is, in fact, distribution where Zee needs to work more. Aaj Tak, which started its availability at around 60 per cent in week 17, had raised it to 80 per cent by week 22, leaving Zee behind at a reduced 70 per cent.
There may be another worrying factor for Zee: Aaj Tak has 75 per cent prime plus colour component in UP, against 66 per cent of Zee. Better access over a longer period may bring in more gains to Aaj Tak. This has a parallel in recent history: Eenadu Bangla. In the first week of March 2001, Eenadu Bangla pushed up its prime plus colour connectivity from 15 to 75 per cent in Calcutta. Reach went up from 30 to a whopping 70 per cent. During elections, even while prime-colour connectivity remained constant, reach went up by another 10 per cent, to 80 per cent.
Alpha Bangla, which till then had a reach of 50 per cent, stayed much the same as its prime-colour connectivity stayed put at 30 per cent.
One of the more direct fights in the prime band was seen in Maharashtra close to the election results. Zee majorly pushed itself into the prime band. Operators demoted Aaj Tak into the colour band, and later even the S band. The important on-ground victory for Zee was that significant S-band households moved straight to prime-band viewing. Both channels recorded a similar increase in reach in the election week (nearly 5 per cent). But over the five weeks, Zee News' jumped up a brilliant 11 per cent, more than double the increase shown by Aaj Tak.
Maharashtra is one region, therefore, where Zee's distribution team has excelled, and programming seems to have kept pace.
Mumbai though, has a different story to tell. Zee attacked the prime band in Mumbai too, just close to the election results. This included some households already receiving the channel on S band. Aaj Tak didn't show much reaction except a mild push on the colour band. Surprisingly, it leads Zee in prime-band connectivity in Mumbai even as Zee News leads in Mumbai in both reach and availability. Mumbai did not show similar reactions to election results, if the reach figures for both channels are anything to go by. Aaj Tak's reach remains much the same - 9.88 per cent, nearly 11 per cent less than Zee News'. That's just the gap that separates the prime plus colour availability of both the channels. Zee's overall reach though, has dipped marginally in Mumbai. Considering it is Zee's high ground, this may call for non-distribution initiatives.
A brief note to end on: These were inferences obtained directly from the results captured by TAM's panel homes and parallel homes. In itself, this data is not meant to suggest absolute strengths or relative losses vis-à-vis all channels available in India. Nor is it exhaustive. It is only meant to capture performance over a period of time and to throw up some insights. It ought to be treated like any statistical paper rather than a judgmental work.
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