When ZEE announced the launch of Thursday Premieres a couple of months ago, it seemed a clever strategy of getting viewers to sample the product, and, at the same time, try and break the stranglehold of STAR's soaps that reach their logical conclusion every week on the same day. The timing, word of mouth, publicity, line-up - all seemed to be just right for a channel that was desperate to get lapsed audiences back. And to some extent, it stands vindicated.
For the week ending October 19, 2002, Hindi feature film Humraaz (telecast on October 17, 2002) clocked a TVR figure of 6.3 (ranked 14 in the Top 100 list). This was a coup of sorts for the channel that had lost its numero uno position to STAR two years ago and had consistently failed to make it to the Top 20 thereafter. Ably supporting the channel's upswing were the online lotteries, Playwin Lucky 3 and Playwin Super Lotto, with TVR figures of 5.63 (ranked 19 in the Top 100 list) and 4.1 (ranked 30) respectively. (Source: Tam Media Research; Target Audience: C&S 4-plus years).
Ironically, ZEE's good show coincides with STAR's plateau, mirroring what happened two years ago when the then No 3 dethroned the No 1 under similar circumstances. For quite some time now, TVR figures for the top bahu serials from STAR have rarely crossed the magical mark of 10, generally hovering in the region of 8 or 9. Its recent offerings Kichdi (a sitcom), Shakalaka Boom Boom (a children's programme) and the Best of KBC do not attract high TVR figures either. On the other hand, Kyun Hota Hain Pyarr, the teenage love story directed by Neena Gupta seems to be doing just fine, at least for now.
So is the time right for ZEE to launch a bid to overtake STAR? More importantly, will the blockbuster strategy be as effective as it is made out to be?
"It will evolve," says Apurva Purohit, president, ZEE TV. "I do see promise in the exercise," she adds.
Tapal Pal, president, Zenith Media India, would also like to believe so. He says, "ZEE is not only building a time band but staging a comeback as well. The channel brass realises they have a good line-up of programmes, but no channel driver that can push audiences to watch these programmes, which is why this focus on movies on a Thursday. The idea is to bring back audiences to the channel and invariably promote their line-up of programmes using this platform. And from the looks of it, they have managed some presence on the ratings chart during this slot, which wasn't there earlier."
For all his optimism, ZEE's Thursday Premieres have had a rather inconsistent run on the ratings chart, highlighting an important point in the process - viewership as well as advertiser interest is driven by the movie title. For example, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, telecast on October 10, 2002, as well as Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hain, telecast on October 24, 2002, met with lukewarm response attracting TVR scores of 3.19 and 3.38 respectively (source: Tam Media Research; T.A: C&S 4-plus years). Also, according to industry sources, overall advertising secondage was 2,200 for Humraaz, which came down to 1,400 seconds for Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hain.
"It depends on how you look at it," says Purohit. "Any good movie could also be a blockbuster," she adds.
Agrees Pal, "It is not easy to procure blockbuster titles, making it imperative for them (the channel brass) to go ahead with the best available. The idea is to build a time band where people can look forward to a good movie, or even a decent enough movie with some blockbusters in between."
This factor of introducing 'decent enough movies' seems to be the limitation of the exercise, point out a couple of analysts. People are attracted to blockbusters, and if they are difficult to acquire, will the crowd come in?
"This vehicle can only be sustained, if the line-up is good," reiterates PRP Nair, vice-president, media, RK Swamy/BBDO. "The trend seems to be clear: With the movie comes the audience. If the movie has suffered a setback at the box office or is a failure altogether, I doubt whether it would work on a channel," he adds.
Agrees a source close to the channel, "Thursday Premieres seem to be a here-and-now strategy rather than a long-term solution. First and foremost, they are undercutting ZEE Cinema, which is the network's movie channel. That apart, the strategy itself seems short term because you would be left with very little option when the initial line-up of big box-office grossers completes its course. What do you after that? For all you know, they may end up showing just about any movie during that time band, defeating the purpose of the initiative."
Despite the obvious pitfalls, most media analysts would prefer to wait and watch before drawing any conclusions about Thursday Premieres. "I would give this strategy another month to unfold," avers Pal of Zenith Media. "There's no denying the fact that the channel has invested a lot into the entire exercise and seems upbeat about its success," he adds. © 2002 agencyfaqs!