Aamir Khan's Satyamev Jayate, simulcast on Star Plus and in eight languages across Star Network's channels and Doordarshan (DD), is considered a trendsetter. Its viewership scaled new heights.
Simulcasting is helping broadcasters expand their audience base. While sports channels have been following it for years, TV general entertainment is picking it up now.
TV broadcasters are either simulcasting popular shows or running the same shows on two different channels in their network at the same time but with staggered episodes - Star Plus and Star Utsav run the same soaps, with the latter running earlier episodes.
Reliance's BIG CBS Network will simulcast the latest season six of America's Got Talent on BIG CBS Prime, BIG CBS Love and BIG CBS Spark.
Broadcasters are also sharing content with competing channels. Coke Studio was, until last year, telecast on MTV and Colors, both part of Viacom 18. This year, it will also be on DD National.
When Zee TV launched its all-new Ramayan, it chose DD to take the epic into rural pockets.
"The idea was to expand Zee TV's nine crore-plus audience base for the show by at least 50%. Ramayan has garnered a sizeable audience through DD," says Sukesh Motwani, programming head, fiction, Zee TV.
Television channels are employing various strategies for aggregating audiences and increasing viewership, while retaining original viewers.
"The latest is the influx of shows shared by two or more channels. Though content sharing is not entirely new, it has got a lot attention lately," said Prem Kamath, executive vice president, Channel V, which ran Gumrah, which was also telecasted on Star Plus. But when Star Plus showed the first season, Channel V was promoting season two.
Typically, Channel V and Star Plus will have distinctly unique audiences.
"As more channels converge in their markets and audiences, there are greater synergies to be explored. Instead of treating each other as acute rivals, we try to see where we can benefit off each other, especially within the network. We see no change in advertiser behaviour due to content sharing," Kamath said.
DD said it gains every time. "Coke Studio makes Rs. 25 lakh per episode for us. On Satyamev Jayate, we made Rs. 14 crore," Prasar Bharati's chief executive officer, Jawhar Sircar, told Mint recently.
"With Satyamev Jayate, advertisers had an opportunity to connect with consumers at a deeper level. The national platform and multiple language simulcast allowed them to reach a large universe of people. And the show offered category exclusivity - no competing brand was aired at a sponsor or spot level," said Kevin Vaz, president, ad sales, Star Network.
However, Navin Khemka, partner at media agency ZenithOptimedia, observed: "Ad rates are very low for simulcast properties. Star Plus would have garnered over 90% of ad revenues on Satyamev Jayate, the rest coming through network simulcasts."
Nonetheless, putting out good shows as repeats on other channels is becoming popular. Sahara One's Sur-Kshetra also premiered on Colors in September.
"Sometimes, a channel can buy the rights of a format from its production house and then sublet it further," Santosh Sood, media consultant and former CEO of Rediffusion Y&R, said.
"A network can also ask to share the production budget if it is confident of the show, and can sell it later to some other channel."
Sometimes, the same show may run different seasons on two competing channels at the same time. While Star Even as Star Plus tom-tommed the first season of Grey's Anatomy aggressively, Zee Café was running its eighth season.
While Supernatural is running its sixth season on Star World, it's running its eighth season on AXN. While Star World is running the sixth season of Dexter, BIG CBS has just opened with its fifth season.
More viewers, strong shows, need to fill the time slots with programmes as the number of channels grow and programme production does not keep pace, flexing network power, all combine as reasons for simulcasting or repeats on different channels in the TV entertainment spectrum.