The test launch of MAA TV, a new Telugu channel, on Sunday, March 31, has thrown up an interesting question: Is there place for a new channel in a market which is in the stranglehold of two well established players - with Gemini TV ruling the Andhra Pradesh airwaves and ETV a close No. 2 - flanked by three more? Incidentally, the debut of MAA comes in the wake of the AP Government's launch of the state-owned Mana TV, taking the count of existing Telugu channels up to six in the state. Besides MAA TV, the channels currently operative in the state are Gemini and Teja from the Sun Network, ETV from the Eenadu group, Mana TV and Bharati from Zee.
"There is certainly scope for another channel in AP, which actually is very similar to Tamil Nadu in terms of consumer psyche and behaviour. Any region today has scope for a clutch of small channels that do not necessarily hold viewers in terms of appointment viewing, but where people drift in and out through the day," says Rajeev Nambiar, COO, Raj Television Network.
To put things in perspective, MAA TV, positioned as 'a wholesome entertainment channel', was launched as a pay digital satellite channel right from its inception. The channel will run eighteen hours a day and offer a mixed bag of programmes that range from plays, soaps, sitcoms to chat shows, current affairs programmes and documentaries. "We want the channel to surprise all and challenge existing formats," says D Rajendra Prasad, executive director, MAA Television Network. The channel has been started with an initial investment of Rs 25 crore by Ramakrishna, who started SitiCable in Andhra Pradesh before it was bought over by the Zee group.
Media planners in the city are of the opinion that any new channel today has to put its act together very fast to pose some sort of a challenge to the established players in a market. And the challenges for MAA TV are many. A senior media planner based in Andhra Pradesh says, "So far, AP audiences have not exhibited any great inclination for soaps and interactive shows beyond dance shows. Also, the audiences here have a higher average per capita income than viewers in other states in the region. And we have seen they are not as interested in contest-kind of shows as some other states. Hence, MAA has to package and market its fare very intelligently."
In fact, the challenge is not limited to wresting shares from the established players. As Janani Subramanian, media supervisor, FCB Ulka, Bangalore, points out, "It is only 60 per cent of the audience in AP that watches all-Telugu channels. The rest is divided between other language channels including English. Hence, MAA will have to come up with a really good hook to actually get people to watch it. It cannot topple Gemini from its perch, but has a good chance of cornering share from ETV as the latter has faltered in its ratings in the last year. However, MAA TV has to be extremely good at what it is doing."
The MAA TV brass has other weapons in its arsenal too. Together with MAA TV, cable channel MAA Cinema was unveiled earlier this week. MAA Cinema has more than 2,650 films in its kitty and hopes to procure rights for more films. The movies screened on MAA TV will be a blend of new and old. To differentiate its offering and get noticed in a cluttered market, MAA plans to unleash a high-profile publicity blitz.
The promoters of MAA TV claim the decision to go pay right from the beginning was aimed at generating around Rs 22 crore in terms of ad revenue in the first year itself. On the sales and distribution front, it hopes to reach 75 per cent of the viewers in Andhra Pradesh in the first three months of its launch.
The good news for the MAA brass is that the AP market itself is relatively untapped in terms of potential. Prasad claims the AP market accounted for just about Rs 150 crore of ad revenue last year. This year the figure is expected to go up to Rs 200 crore. "It is true that the economy is going through a rough phase, and that most media watchers would say this is not the right time to launch a new channel, but my reading is that the ad revenue earned by the various southern channels has remained constant. We are well-known in the industry and we are getting a favourable response from the industry already," says Prasad. © 2002 agencyfaqs!