Straight ahead for Zee

By , agencyfaqs! | In | July 26, 2002
Zee has decided to take its main rival STAR Plus head on

Zee has decided to take its main rival STAR Plus head on.

On 30 July, The Simply Shekhar Show will debut on television screens. It will be telecast Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:30 pm - the stronghold of rival STAR Plus. The immensity of the gamble becomes clearer with a cursory glance at the latest TAM figures. For the week starting July 7, 2002, for C&S audiences in the four-plus age group on July 9, Tuesday, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki reached a TVR of 7.36 with a channel share of 24.19 per cent. On Wednesday, July 10, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi reached a TVR of 9.56 and a channel share of 37.57 per cent.

These are the shows that The Simply Shekhar show will be pitted against. As one senior media planner puts it, "It is a bit tough. For one, it is a new programme, and experience shows that it is very difficult for a new show to make headway against another that is already established."

However, the launch of the new show is a calculated gamble. To begin with, there is nothing that says viewers cannot be wooed away from the soaps - if the right mixture is presented. This was evident last week, when a cricket match led the list of the Top 25 programmes for week starting July 7, 2002. On July 13, Saturday, the cricket match between India and England telecast by ESPN reached a TVR of 19.31 among C&S audiences in the 4-plus age group (source: TAM Media Research).

Just like cricket, comedy or entertainment shows are also episodic, not requiring a loyal audience, say analysts. Surveys have shown that of all the genres on television, comedies, which do not depend so much on the continuous melodramatic nature of the soaps, have a shifting audience. Therefore, the aim is to bring in new audiences for the channel, rather than woo the avid viewers of soaps. "What Zee is looking at is a different audience each time. This will interest those advertisers who are looking at reach, rather than a loyal audience, as they can reach out to a different audience each time," points out a senior media planner.

However, the question is whether the show itself will deliver the goods. An improved version of Shekhar's original on Sony - Movers & Shakers - The Simply Shekhar Show will poke fun at contemporary life, including the reigning heroes of the silver screen, current news, and other aspects of contemporary life. At the end of the day, however, a lot depends on the show itself. The star alone is not enough, as Anupam Kher's Sawal Das Crore Ka and Govinda's Jeeto Chappar Phaad Ke showed. However, if nothing else, the earlier version Movers & Shakers (which, in effect, was the desi version of Jay Leno's Tonight Show) made the fortune of InHouse, the production house that created it.

With The Simply Shekhar Show, Zee is also treading a very different path from Sony, which has decided to concentrate on the slots in which it is strong - and build them in the hope that this will bring in loyal audiences, who will then stay on with the channel. Zee, on is turn, is opting to challenge STAR Plus in its strongest slots. Earlier, Zee pit Tu Kahe Agar against STAR Plus's top ranker Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. The channel has also pushed its Chhoti Maa out of the 9.00 pm to 9.30 pm slot to the 10.00 pm to 10.30 pm slot, again pitting the show against STAR Plus's top bahu serials.

At a wider level, this marks a new shift in the strategy for the channel. Since April 2001, when the current group broadcasting CEO Sandeep Goyal took charge of the channel, Zee has gone through at least two different shifts in strategy. First the channel launched 26 new shows all at once. In retrospect, its carpet-bombing strategy proved too much, and none of the shows made it into the Top 100. Then, it went in for a diverse bouquet of offerings, marked by a series of shows that were very different from the usual offerings on C&S television - a celebrity show like Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai, a game show Khelo Number Khelo, and live telecasts of online lotteries.

This seems to have produced a mixed bag of results - the TRP figures touched their lowest in two years, but Zee, emboldened by the success of Khelo Number Khelo and the live telecast of the Playwin lottery draw during the show, has inked deals with other state governments to show lottery draws online. The channel is clearly hoping that over the long run, lottery shows will become as big a draw as they are in the West. The channel also insists that TRP figures do not reflect the real popularity of its programming.

However, what is not clear is whether this current bout of programming is part of a larger shift in strategy or an ad hoc response to the yet-again flagging fortunes of the channel, going by TVR figures. None of the new shows on Zee have made a dramatic impact on the ratings or marketshare.

What is clear however is that Zee's new launches have been following a pattern. They have been different and they have piqued audience interest. But where they have failed has been to keep that interest going. Given that, it remains to be seen if the new offering will make a mark, or go the same way as the others. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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