Are there takers for original programmes late at night?

By Sangeeta Tanwar , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | September 22, 2010
STAR Plus' move to extend the prime-time until midnight is not new. It remains to be seen whether the strategy is worth the investment at a time of high fragmentation

STAR Plus, with its recent launch Kaali - Ek Agnipariksha, has gone back to having an original show in the late-night prime-time slot.

Kaali is on-air at 11 pm, and the channel plans to roll out another show, Maryada at 11:30 pm. So far, like other competing GECs, STAR Plus too was airing repeat telecasts of its shows, Chaand Chupa Baadal Mein and Sasural Genda Phool in the 11 pm-midnight time band.

This is not the first time that STAR Plus has extended its prime time until midnight. Way back in 2004, the GEC had two shows, namely Kahiin Toh Hoga and K-Street Palli Hill, airing at 11 pm and 11:30 pm, respectively. K-Street Pali Hill was launched with a view to attract male audiences, and thereby broaden the channel's viewership. Prior to that, STAR Plus aired reruns of Kahiin Kisi Roz in this time-band.

In the past, during STAR Plus' heyday, the concept of repeat programming wasn't very popular, until Colors changed the rules of the game.

However, in the current scenario, when fragmentation is high and viewers have numerous choices to select from, STAR Plus' strategy to replace reruns with fresh programming in the late-night slot is being seen as a brave move by industry observers.

It should also be noted that STAR Plus' market share in the 11.00-11.59 pm time band is either on par or more than its closest competitor. For instance, in Week 34, Colors claimed a 23.5 per cent relative channel share; while STAR Plus had a share of 21.2 per cent. In Week 36, STAR Plus was ahead of Colors, where as in Week 37, both the channels are on par with 21 per cent share.

Ravi Kiran, CEO, South Asia and emerging market leader of specialist solutions, Starcom MediaVest Group, says, "It's a bold move on their part and involves effecting change in TV viewing behaviour. Only compelling content and word-of- mouth will get them new viewers."

STAR Plus certainly is trying to claim a clear leadership in this time slot, but the question is whether it's worth the investment the channel would incur in producing original shows for this time band. Would original programming enable STAR Plus to command a premium over its competitors for advertising in the 11 pm-midnight slot?

Kiran opines that if the shows do well, STAR Plus stands to gain; but the premium earned would be marginal. This is because, he explains, advertisers look at total viewership; for them, it's not a game of original versus repeats.

However, while measuring the success of the fresh programming, it would be unfair to compare a show at 11:30 pm with the 9:30 pm offering - it has to be a slot by slot comparison, adds Kiran.

Manas Mishra, executive vice-president and country head, Mudra Connext, states "Currently, the 8 pm-11 pm slot in the GEC space is fully occupied. It makes sense for STAR Plus to bring in fresh programming and benefit by building a new slot altogether. The content in this slot has to be mainstream and appealing enough to an adult audience. The late-night slot will open up new markets for players and advertisers, by broadening the GEC basket."

Misra points out that though the viewership base for the 11 pm-midnight slot will be smaller than the 10 pm-11 pm slot, STAR Plus will undoubtedly have the first-mover advantage.

It is learnt that putting up a 30-minute episode of a fiction show entails an additional investment of Rs 5-6 lakh by the channel. With two new launches, STAR Plus is spending an additional Rs 12 lakh per day, as against zero cost involved in airing repeats.

Given the high costs involved, is STAR Plus' strategy to offer viewers fresh programming worth its salt?

A senior media planner, on condition of anonymity, shares that new shows in place of repeats translates into more investment. However, to get it right, the channel has to play the rate versus rating game.

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