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Will Mission Everest scale the height it set out to?

By , agencyfaqs! | In | May 22, 2003
While Mission Everest hasn't really set the ratings charts afire, the channel brass says the idea is to create a buzz around the channel and draw the non-NGC audiences.

Success is relative, like everything else in life is. One sure-fire way of measuring success of a TV programme is ratings and the other the rub-off the property creates for the channel (especially in the case of a niche channel, where ratings are definitely not the selling proposition). However, both theses are not mutually exclusive ways of determining the success of a particular programme. For a fair view, both perspectives need to be analysed.

In the light of this statement let us see whether Mission Everest from the National Geographic Channel has had the desired impact on the minds of Indian audiences.

But first, let us be clear why the programme is the cynosure of our discussion. Mission Everest is the first reality TV programme in the genre of adventure programming in India. And second, big bucks (about Rs 11 crore) have been pumped into this venture.

A quick scan of the relevant figures prove Mission Everest hasn't really set the ratings charts on fire and, in fact, audience reaction to the programme has been mixed. According to the TAM data for C&S audiences in the 4-plus age group in the top six cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad), the day one (April 20, 2003) of the half-hour telecast from 7.00 pm to 7:30 pm recorded an audience reach of 89,000. The repeat at 10.00 pm same day got a better response - 2.2 lakh. In the same 7.00-7 30 pm time band, the second episode (April 27) and the third episode (May 4) got a reach of 1.02 lakh and 1.38 lakh respectively.

Now let us look at the reach of the programmes in the same time band on the three consecutive Sundays prior to the launch of Mission Everest. On March 30, the reach of the programme in the 7.00-7:30 pm time band stood at 29,000. It shot up dramatically on April 6 to 2.02 lakh. On April 13, the reach in the same time band was 1.40 lakh. As is evident, the cumulative reach of Mission Everest is not any higher from the reach of the earlier programmes in the same time slot. What has improved - albeit fractionally - is the channel share, from 0.05 (April 20) to 0.61 (May 4), according to TAM data for C&S audiences in the 4-plus age group in the top six cities.

Interestingly, the lackluster performance of the much-hyped Mission Everest is not of immediate concern to NGC. Zubin Gandevia, managing director, NGC, is forthright in his argument. "We are not keen on numbers but our sole interest is to create a buzz around Mission Everest." That Mission Everest will have a positive rub-off on the brand NGC is something NGC officials are confident about.

"The universe of the NGC viewership is not very big," Gandevia explains his long-term strategy. "It comprises loyalists. Typically programmes that are part of the tentpole concept (which is about introducing one or two big programmes a year) - such as the Pearl Harbor Legacy of Attack, Super Croc and Egypt - Secret Chambers Revealed - do well with the NGC viewers, though the ratings plateau at a level. For that universe to expand, we have to fan out and reach the masses - the non-Nat Geo viewers." In short, those who watch STAR Plus, Sony and ZEE to begin with.

In other words, the strategy behind Mission Everest is "to create awareness and make the product pervasive". "The objective is to make Mission Everest part of the consideration set of viewers. While many would not watch Mission Everest, they would at least know about it. The fact that the 'Everest Se Takkar' contest pulled an overwhelming crowd of some 30,000 people from across the country is an indication of a very large non-NGC crowd that needs to be tapped. Our motto is to take the awareness to the level where even a local panwala is curious to know what is happening on Mission Everest." According to a Delhi-based media observer, a response from 30,000 people is "not such a bad deal" for a niche channel.

It is perhaps to reach the 'untapped masses' that NGC decided to simulcast the first episode of Mission Everest on CHannel [V] and STAR Plus (besides NGC). The total reach of Mission Everest on the three channels NGC, CHannel [V] and STAR Plus including the repeat at 10.00 pm came close to 43 lakh (all India). "And that figure", avers Gandevia, "is the correct estimate of the performance of Mission Everest. It also suggests that viewers of the big entertainment channels want to watch non-fiction, provided its is packaged entertainingly. That is what makes a difference." So now, NGC considers simulcast of similar programmes in future as an 'active part' of its promotional strategy.

Alongside, NGC plans to reintroduce an NGC block on STAR Plus. For the record, from the year 2000 to 2002, NGC had a one-hour block on STAR Plus from 2.00 pm to 3.00 pm on Saturdays with repeats on Sundays. The time and days of the NGC block on STAR Plus, is something NGC officials are not willing to talk about at this stage.

NGC's big plan is to use Mission Everest to build the 'Sunday Nights' block. The idea is to use Mission Everest as an entry point for Sunday night programmes. Mission Everest at 7.00 pm will be followed by Built for the Kill at 7:30 pm. At 8:30 pm, NGC will showcase its Sunday blockbuster, a one-hour non-fiction feature, and follow that up with a fresh series of NGC's popular Croc Chronicles. © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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