General entertainment channels have always designed special weekend viewing packages to create stickiness for the entire family. Initially, fiction shows were scheduled on a weekly basis, with the weekend slots being reserved for special programming such as movies. Later, although some soaps were set to run for six days a week, the weekend slots were still handled differently.
Joining the bandwagon, Colors has decided to extend three of its high-rated fiction properties to Saturday. Come January 5, the three shows, Sasural Simar Ka, Balika Vadhu and Madhubala - Ek Ishq, Ek Junoon will be telecast from Monday through Saturday, from 7.30 pm to 9 pm. The channel had a popular singing reality show, Sur Kshetra, which was telecast in this timeslot. The show concluded during the last week of 2012.
Prashant Bhatt, weekday programming head, Colors, says, "We invest a lot of time in creating sticky concepts for our viewers and now, we have more to offer them on the same platter."
Though the channel defines it as a New Year gift to loyal viewers, market experts consider it as a wise experiment with the Saturday evening slot.
Planners agree that the channel could be able to create traction with the move. The shows are top rated amongst the shows of the channel. Sasural Simar Ka garnered 3.8 TVRs (according to TAM data Week 52, C&S 4+, HSM), while Balika Vadhu garnered 5.2 TVRs and Madhubala recorded 4.1 TVRs. "Given that there are loyal viewers of the daily soaps, I feel it's a good attempt. Weekends normally have lower viewership and soaps may enhance this viewership," opines Sushma Jhaveri, COO, Madison Media Infinity.
Also, since the time band is still early primetime, media planners note that the channel may not have to fight with stronger properties on other GECs.
Star Plus telecasts an hour-long maha-episode (7 pm) and the newly launched thriller series Arjun (8 pm) on Saturdays. Sony places its flagship crime properties Crime Patrol and Adaalat during that slot, while the popular game show Kaun Banega Crorepati runs from 8.30 pm onwards.
Comedy channel SAB TV recently launched two of its weekend properties, Chintu Ban Gaya Gentleman and Gutar Gu Season 2 on the Saturday, 8-9 pm slot. Also, Life OK telecasts Alaxmi Ka Super Parivar and Kahani Mahadev Ki from 7-9 pm.
Interestingly, Star Plus, too, had extended two of its fiction properties, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai and Diya Aur Baati Hum to Saturdays for about four weeks.
However, considering that the viewership profile is very different on Saturdays as compared to weekdays, there is definitely a certain amount of risk involved. Could another strategy, such as a movie band on the given slot, have been more effective in garnering viewership?
Piyush Srivastava of Carat Media reflects that a movie band would have meant an additional investment for the channel. Apparently, Colors doesn't have a very extensive movie library and telecasts movies mainly through syndication deals.
Jhaveri seconds this and adds that movie viewership depends on titles and is not stable.
Srivastava notes that several channels are experimenting with the 'maha-episode' formats on Saturdays and have been able to map some traction, which could have fuelled this move by Colors.
Cost considerations also work in favour of the move. On an average, production of a single 30-minute episode on any GEC costs about Rs 10-15 lakh. With this move, the channel will increase its spend by close to 45-60 lakh a month. However, a non-fiction property costs more than double this amount for a single episode, and the acquisition cost of recent movies is also high, beginning at Rs 2-3 crore.
Speaking about the different set of viewers who tune in on weekends, Jhaveri says, "The viewership is different because of different genres on weekends. This may help get the weekday viewers spend more time on weekends, too. It's unlikely for the move to backfire."