When it is low tide for cricket, it is high tide for entertainment.
The country's leading television channels will rain mega shows this September and October, with good reason: The time is just right with a surge in consumer goods spending with matching ads, while broadcasters must use the off-cricket period to grab eyeballs.
While the Priyanka Chopra-hosted Khatron Ke Khiladi 3 kicks off in mid-September, Bigg Boss 4 with Salman Khan and Master Chef India with Akshay Kumar will launch in October. Kaun Banega Crorepati 4 will kick off on October 11, host Amitabh Bachchan's birthday.
According to industry estimates, most leading general entertainment channels (GECs) reserve 30 to 40 per cent of their programming budget — R120 to R300 crore — for the September-October festive season. Last year, Sony introduced its IPL-inspired dance show Dance Premier League and Colors launched Bigg Boss 3 with Bachchan as host.
However, this year, the four months beginning with the festive season are critical for GECs. In February 2011, India will host the cricket World Cup followed closely by IPL 4. With cricket attracting all the eyeballs and advertising, few channels expect significant pickings.
"IPL 1 was a learning experience for us," said N.P. Singh, CEO of Sony Entertainment.
"During the next two IPLs, no channel launched anything major. IPL draws away a significant female audience too."
Singh said the September to December period is when most fast moving consumer goods brands splurge on visibility. "The festive season is the best time. On an average, if the yearly growth for the TV industry is 12 per cent, this period clocks 20 to 25 per cent," said Singh.
Research, he said, also indicates that viewers prefer fresh content on TV during this season and are ready to loosen their purse strings for products that catch their fancy. "It's easier to get sponsors," said Singh.
Anupam Vasudev, EVP (marketing) of Star Plus, however, said not every channel targets a September-October launch for a big show. "This period is great for consumers, but big shows mean big preparation and often involve big names from Bollywood. Their dates are difficult to come by," he said.
Does the glut of major shows lead to fragmented TRPs, with no one show dominating? "No," said Sahara One programming head Sheetal Laad, who once worked with production house Endemol that handles Bigg Boss and Khatron Ke Khiladi.
"The festive season starts after the shraadh period ends. After that, people can't get enough of shows that are exciting or happy."