So, could this significant drop in viewership be a consequence of the extreme power cut situation that the state is currently in, or are the reasons more political?
The Tamil Nadu general entertainment genre has witnessed as much as 17 per cent drop in viewership during the month of February, 2012/03 when compared to the preceding month.
The average GRPs of the genre fell from 340 points a day in January to 281 points a day in February.
In fact, if one considers the GRPs of the current month till March 17, the average GRP stands at 270 points a day, registering a further fall. To be precise, according to TAM (C&S 4+, Tamil Nadu and Chennai), the total GRPs of the genre stood at 8166 points in February, down from the 10557 points registered in January. And, as of March 17, 2012/03, the total GRPs of the genre stands at 4599 points.
And so the Reason!
Countless note that the fall in the GRPs could be primarily due to the long power cuts that the state has been experiencing for a while now.
The state has been witnessing almost 8-10 hours of power cuts, starting at 9 am in the morning till late in the night. The standard power cuts in the state occur during 9 am-12 noon, 3 pm-6 pm, 8 pm -9 pm (during primetime hours) and a one-hour power cut post 11 pm.
However, there is a counter view here, too. According to Kavitha Srinivasan, partner, client leadership, Mindshare, the power cuts are generally held all across the day parts and it is generally distributed area-wise. This means all regions do not experience power cuts at the same given time. "It is distributed all across the day and time bands and therefore, the impact is not much during primetime. Also, the impact of the power cuts is much more beyond Chennai. Not to forget that almost every household, at least in Chennai, has an inverter or a power generator, which means TV can be viewed during power cuts," she says.
Interestingly, there is another theory playing rounds to the falling GRP story, and this time it's with a 'magnum' political twist. According to many industry insiders, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's decision to revive Arasu Cable TV Corporation to kill Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV), the cable network controlled by Sun TV, and its near monopoly in the state's cable business has started showing results.
While Arasu Cable was revived in September 2011, it started getting fully implemented in January this year. And since almost 25 Sun Network channels had been dropped out of the Arasu Cable TV network during the given period, the genre saw a significant decline during February, many speculate.
"Until now, Sun TV Network was available as a free-to-air channel because it had its own cable network monopoly in the state. However, with Arasu coming in, Sun Network got stuck up with negotiations demanding as much as Rs 25 crore to be a part of Arasu Cable," says Sudhir Raju Puthran, media group head, MPG. It is pertinent to note here that the negotiations are still on even as the dispute continues.
Meanwhile, a few top industry executives who do not wish to be named due to political implications state that the penetration of Arasu Cable TV Corporation is steadily increasing all through the state. "And since Sun TV, which holds the lion's share in this market, is being stopped from beaming in key centres on the prime band, the fall in the GRPs has started to surface," they note. Sun TV is visible in a few smaller pockets of the state on Arasu Cable but on much lower bands.
It is pertinent to note here that Sun TV, the biggest GRP grosser in the market (with more that 60 per cent market share), has seen a 1,500 GRP drop over the previous month - from 6422 points to 4906 points - creating a magnum impact on the genre viewership.
A shift to the news genre?
Media experts state that the news genre in Tamil Nadu saw as much as a 10 per cent increase (approximate) in the last two months. This is primarily driven by the news coverage pertaining to Jayalalitha expelling her close aide Sasikala from AIADMK, along with her 12 relatives in December, 2011. The dispute coverage between Arasu Cable TV Corporation and Sumangali Cable Vision (SCV) is also being viewed extensively on news channels.
The launch of Puthiya Thalaimurai from the SRM stable has also regenerated the news interest in viewers due to its new format and variety, thereby leading to a viewership shift toward this genre at the expense of GECs, opine many.
Suriyanarayanan notes that with an almost 17 per cent drop in viewership, the channels would have to increase the run time of ad spots even more in a bid to deliver the same CPRP. "And this could eventually hurt the channel revenues since rates would be adjusted according to the GRP delivered," he says.
It is a well known fact that Sun TV does not operate on CPRP but instead, charges on the basis of its own card rate. And therefore, the second-rung channels could be affected if the advertisers decide to pull out their monies from these channels.
The impact could be the other way round, as well. Advertisers could choose to invest lesser amount in Sun TV on the basis of the fixed rate card and instead use that money on other channels that are ready to negotiate on open deals and as per delivery.
"But as far as advertising on the channel is concerned, the investments on the genre is not expected to impact much in the shorter run," he says.