To combat the omnipresence of STAR Plus in the Hindi general entertainment segment, rivals Sony and ZEE have been chalking out aggressive strategies to topple the No 1 player in the ratings game. One of them is a renewed focus on weekend programming, a slot that has remained relatively untapped by STAR Plus, and seemed almost obliterated from the programming schedules of most Hindi general entertainment channels for a long time in their quest for day-to-day leadership on weekdays.
It was Sony Entertainment Television or SET which first spotted this virgin territory to take on the mighty STAR, promptly launching Balaji Telefilms-produced social thriller, Kya Haadsa Kya Haqeeqat on August 16, 2002 (Friday) at 8.00 pm in addition to its line-up of movies and events on Saturdays and Sundays. Episodic in nature, the show follows a three-day format running from Friday to Sunday at the same time. To strengthen its hold on the weekend, the channel followed up this high-profile launch with another social thriller titled, Devi from production houses Devgan Software (promoted by filmstars, Ajay Devgan and Kajol) and Television Footprints, on September 20, 2002 at 9.00 pm.
Of course, STAR couldn't have been far behind. Besides its Friday line-up consisting of the Best of KBC at 8.00 pm, Khulja Sim Sim at 9.00 pm, Ssshh Koi Hai at 10.00 pm, and Avinash IPS at 11.00 pm, the channel recently reintroduced Sea Hawks at 7.00 pm on Saturdays followed by a movie at 8.00 pm on the same day.
However, the biggest surprise in terms of weekend programming has come from the third player, ZEE, which is all set to switch its primetime programming line-up from a Monday to Thursday format to a Sunday to Wednesday one with effect from October 12, 2002.
Clearly, the battle has shifted to the weekend with the top three especially Sony and ZEE desperately trying to woo a fragmented audience.
In fact, this is fast turning out to be the most bitterly fought battle - how to capture a transient audience disbursed across time bands. As explained by a senior media planner based in Mumbai, "Overall reach of TV audience on a Monday and a Sunday is the same. The audience definitely exists but unlike a weekday where viewership tends to get concentrated around a few time bands, on a Sunday viewership gets highly fragmented."
And the biggest beneficiaries of this fragmentation are the niche channels. In the words of a media planner with a Top 10 agency, "Weekends are when niche channels start doing well and general entertainment channels take a backseat."
This trend is also validated by TAM Media Research whose figures for week 37 (September 8 to September 14, 2002) indicate that ZEE, Sony and STAR put together account for 31.1 per cent channel share on weekdays with others (that is, channels other than Hindi general entertainment channels) accounting for 66.5 per cent. (The balance 2.4 per cent goes to SABe TV and Sahara TV, with their individual channel shares at 1.4 per cent and 1.0 per cent respectively on weekdays.)
A reversal of fortunes is obvious on the weekend with channel share figures for the same week as follows: 18 per cent channel share for the conglomerate of ZEE, Sony and STAR, whereas the others account for 79.4 per cent channel share. (On weekends, the score for SABe TV is 0.8 per cent and 1.8 per cent for Sahara TV, which together contribute the balance 2.6 per cent).
The same pattern is obvious for the previous week, that is, week 36 (September 1 to September 7, 2002) with cumulative channel share for the top three being 34 per cent on a weekday and 63.6 per cent for the rest, minus Hindi general entertainment channels. (For week 36, corresponding figures for SABe TV and Sahara TV are 1.4 per cent and 1.0 per cent.)
Churn time once again on the weekend with 19.7 per cent channel share for ZEE, Sony and STAR put together and 77.4 per cent for the others. (On weekends, the channel share is 0.9 per cent for SABe TV and 2 per cent for Sahara TV.)
So why are the top three losing out to the other channels? Because of the dearth of good programming over the weekend, highlight media analysts. "Big players lose out to niche channels primarily because there is nothing to watch over the weekend," avers a media observer. "Give them an option and the ceaseless surfing that happens over weekends will reduce considerably."
Which is precisely what ZEE and Sony are attempting to do. Provide an interesting mix that will keep viewers hooked on a particular channel and dissuade them from zapping the remote control. As Sunil Lulla, executive vice-president, SET, states, "Our weekend franchise is an attempt to seriously stop the audience fragmentation and to eventually build on it." Reiterates Apurva Purohit, president, ZEE TV, "We intend giving audiences a good line-up for a Sunday evening rather than leave them to chase niche channels or cable movies."
To this end, ZEE has moved away from the strategy considered sacrosanct by general entertainment channels - that of telecasting movies over the weekend, shifting it instead to a weekday, namely Thursday, hoping to catch those roving eyeballs. If successful, this strategy could mark a dramatic shift in television programming with the captive audience base likely to sample its weekend franchise as well.
So, even as STAR's rivals firm up plans in an all-out battle, a brief synopsis of what started it all will clear doubts, if any, about their strategy to capture the weekend audience. According to TAM Media Research, an analysis of data available for the last six months or 26 weeks reveals the following pattern: average time spent watching TV on a weekday is 114 minutes whereas on a Saturday, it is 110 minutes increasing to 129 minutes on a Sunday, implying a 13 per cent increase in time spent on a Sunday over a weekday (for C&S audiences in the 4-plus age group in Hindi speaking markets).
In Mumbai, for C&S audiences in the 4-plus age group, the average time spent is 122 minutes on a weekday, which falls by a minute (that is, 121 minutes) on a Saturday consequently increasing to 136 minutes on a Sunday, implying a 11 per cent increase in the time spent on a Sunday over a weekday.
Figures for Delhi are much lower with the average time spent registering a mere 3 per cent hike with individual scores going as follows: 118 minutes on a weekday that falls to 101 minutes on a Saturday increasing to 121 minutes on a Sunday. © 2002 agencyfaqs!