It was billed as a television blockbuster, with a Bollywood superstar positioned as India’s Oprah Winfrey in a heart-tugging chat show, with matching promotions. Satyamev Jayate’s debut episode, at 11 am on Sunday, May 6, hosted by Aamir Khan, was simulcast across nine channels, including Doordarshan, with language subtitles for Star’s regional channels.
On a first look at viewership response, there was a good amount of confusion since the show bucked the TAM television rating (TVR) norm because of its simulcasting, making it very difficult to judge performance. TVR represents the share of viewers watching that show of all viewers watching TV at a given point in time. Each channel would have seen viewership fragmentation due to the simulcasts.
Just on Star Plus, Satyamev Jayate got a TVR of 3.02% (cable and satellite homes, Hindi speaking market), which was much lower than Kaun Banega Crorepati’s season 5 opening TVR on Sony of 5.34%, Bigg Boss season 5 on Colors (4.25%), India’s Got Talent season 3 (Colors, 3.91%) and Star Plus’s Just Dance (3.68%).
On an all-India basis (cable and satellite plus DD), the first episode garnered a 4.1% TVR. The next episode on May 13 saw a dip in TVR, made up somewhat by the third episode on May 20.
But for a programme that has broken a number of norms and new ground, a performance evaluation based on just TVRs may not really give us the correct picture.
As Meenakshi Menon (Madhwani), managing partner, Spatial Access, said: “When an episode runs for an hour-and-a-half, the TVR, which involves time and reach, is bound to get depressed. But we are calculating the numbers at Spatial Access and find that the audience actually tuning into the show is significantly larger than for blockbuster programmes.”
Star India’s CEO, Uday Shankar, talked reach (the number of people who watch a show for more than a minute). “The show has delivered a historic reach of 33 crore people over the first three episodes. The content has galvanised the slot.
While there are some minor criticisms, viewers are almost unanimous in praising the content. “Why does Aamir need to cry on stage? The content is really good and doesn’t need that,” said Mumbai-based hair salon owner, Coleen Khan.
“I would love to be invited to be in the show’s audience – I would like to say some significant things too,” said Margaret Prasad, an informal social activist.
“I was in Delhi with potential business partners and the conversation started with Satyamev Jayate. The show has created quite a buzz,” said Marzin Shroff, CEO direct sales and senior VP marketing, Eureka Forbes, a key show sponsor which has pumped in over R 12 crore into the sponsorship. It saw a match in its brand intent of purity with that of the show’s aim to discuss social issues to improve lives.
Lead sponsor Airtel is also happy. Bharat Bambawale, director global brands, Bharti Airtel, said, “Sunday morning on TV was defunct, but not any longer. We’re committed to this show’s 13 episodes. Its philosophy fits with Airtel’s – responsibility with leadership.”
For Star India, Satyamev Jayate is strategically important. “We believe that as leaders of broadcasting, we have got to be the chief innovators constantly working towards renewing TV’s social contract with society. Satyamev Jayate is one of the biggest leaps that we have taken in many years. With it, we are trying to establish a very eclectic, contemporary definition of what entertainment content can be,” said Shankar.
“The use of TV to trigger social change in a planned way is where the real success of Satyamev Jayate lies. To the cynics it would seem to be a smart ploy by a shrewd player of emotions; to the beneficiaries it would be the emergence of their long awaited benefactors,” said Ashish Mishra, head of Water and Interbrand India operations.
“Satyamev Jayate has the beginnings of becoming a movement,” said Menon.
Shankar couldn’t agree more, asserting: “Since its launch, every day we hear stories of change inspired by it at a personal and societal level.” On the other side, the Indian Medical Association is demanding an apology for defamation of all doctors in one episode.
Think it’s early days yet, as the skeptics would say? Let’s wait and watch then – there are eight more episodes to go.