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Zee: Playing the numbers game

By , agencyfaqs! | In | June 10, 2002
Zee launches an advertising blitz arguing more are watching it than the numbers indicate. But the question is: Will media planners be impressed?



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MUMBAI

"More people are watching the show than you think"

It's become a motto for Zee Television that has always insisted that its shows are doing much better than what the TVRs say. Right now, in a no-holds barred war for television ratings and advertisement, Zee is actively wooing advertisers to spend money on its new game show, Khelo Number Khelo, Thursdays, 9.00 pm to 9.30 pm. The main argument? With so many Playwin tickets being sold, it is only natural that the buyers have their eyes hopefully pinned on the show, where Zee's lottery telecast is shown live. The online gaming concept was launched by Playwin Infravest Pvt Ltd, a company promoted by the Rs 4,500-crore Essel Group.

Zee TV has a set of figures to back up its story. The week before last, the channel quotes Playwin figures to say that 12 million tickets were sold. That would work out to an estimated 11 million homes with a lottery ticket, or an average of 1.1 tickets per household.

The question is: Are one or two popular programmes good enough to win the ratings game? Zee hopes such programmes help. Through a series of clever advertisements, and word of mouth, Playwin Infravest has been able to convince viewers that the draw is honest, no mean achievement in a country where nearly half of the lottery industry is fake, with non-existent prize money. In fact, lottery itself has been frowned upon with several states banning it. While official revenue figures from the lottery business is pegged at Rs 200 crore, according to lottery industry estimates, illegal gambling accounts for more than Rs 1,50,000 crore annually.

Such formidable obstacles took a toll on the marketing of the show. In the West, the crucial factor for lottery channels has been savvy marketing. Over here, Playwin and Zee had to a two-fold challenge. One, it had to market the concept, and convince potential buyers that the lottery was honest, and two, market the show itself. The marketing strategy began on a low-key note - a few billboards, hardly any newspaper reporting or television spots. Now the advertising strategy seems to have moved on to a higher stage.

Media analysts feel that Playwin has been able to successfully do the first, with a series of advertisements that emphasised the authenticity of the draw, and by creating hype around the winners of the jackpot - a student from Maharashtra, and a hotel owner from Sikkim - on Zee TV. With industry speculating that Playwin sales have been steadily rising, the channel has moved on to the second stage of its marketing strategy - convince advertisers that the show is worth advertising on.

Challenges remain. Some feel that it still is too early to say whether the show is really catching on, or whether the curiosity value is still strong. "It remains an alien concept to the Indian television audience, and the real success of the show will depend on whether it catches on throughout the country. Basically, one has to wait and see, " says Ashish Bhasin, president, Initiative Media.

A difficult task for Zee's marketing team would be to convince advertisers that the show is really popular - given that TVR figures still remain unfriendly to the show. Sample this. Despite the end of blockbusters like Kaun Banega Crorepati, in the four-plus age group, all the Top 10 shows on cable and satellite television for the week May 19 to May 25, 2002, were from STAR Plus (TAM figures). And for each one of the 'Bahu' serials the TVRs were higher than 5 and even touching 10. Zee, on the other hand, was not able to make it to the Top 100 on C&S television, which was split between STAR Plus with 47, Sun TV with 30, Gemini TV with 10, Sony with 10, and Star Sports with three.

And even in the crucial segment of SEC ABC women (in the 15 to 44 age group) in Hindi-speaking markets, the show has averaged a TVR of 2. To take one example, for April 18, 2002 - a relatively early date when the show still retained much of its curiosity value - the show in the same audience segment touched a TVR figure of 2.4. And, if one goes by TVR figures, other shows from the channel's stable, such as Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai, Fridays, 9.00 pm, have done much better.

However, Zee insiders argue that the emphasis on TVR figures to gauge the popularity of a show is misplaced. TVR figures are based on the number of people who visit a show, and also the amount of time that they spend on the show. However, another crucial indicator, the reach of the show, is very much in Zee's favour, because, according to Zee sources, there is considerable evidence that a lot of people check the channel 'off and on', to see the results.

"Many people make the mistake of looking at TVR figures, and basing an estimate of the audience size solely on that. TVR ratings might be low, because of the relatively lesser amount of time that audiences spend on a particular show, but the reach might be much higher, as many viewers just visit a show," explains a senior executive at the channel. Going by this yardstick, it is likely that a lot of people are not watching the whole of Khelo Number Khelo, but just the draw.

So Zee continues to aggressively market the show, pointing not at TVR figures but to another set of data to insist that the show is doing well. The channel is trotting figures that say that 70 per cent of the lottery ticket buyers own C&S TV sets, and that they are glued to the set during the draw. Based on its own research, the channel claims that an estimated one in every five C&S households watch the show to know if they have won a Jackpot, which touched a whopping Rs 8.6 crores on May 23.

If the show really catches on like online lottery has in the West, Khelo Number Khelo could be the start of a whole new genre. The potential is enormous. The size of the online lottery industry worldwide is estimated at $125 billion with a growth rate of 1 to 4 per cent.

The question is: Will that success be duplicated here? The jury is still out on that. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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