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It’s the show, stupid!

business Updated: Aug 16, 2009 23:11 IST
Anita Sharan

Television viewers watch programmes, not channels. So advertisers and their media agencies chase programmes, not channels. Channels themselves say monetisation for them depends on programme viewership. So why is there so much noise about rankings in the general entertainment channel (GEC) space?

Star Plus, Colors and Zee have played ping-pong for top slot every week in recent months, indicating that viewers are not channel loyal. As Rajesh Kamat, CEO, Colors, says, “The exit barrier is the remote’s up and down buttons, as the viewer is spoilt for choice.”

The viewer chooses programmes, not channels. Or else NDTV Imagine, not among the top rankers, would never have attracted the viewership it did for Rakhi Ka Swayamvar.

In the week of August 2-8, the programme closed at a 6.09 per cent viewership, leading the top viewed TV programmes, according to TAM’s weekly Peoplemeter data. It had also opened well, according to aMap (the overnight TV viewership rating agency) with a 3.5 per cent viewership among cable and satellite, four-years-old plus viewers.

However, Star Plus’ Bidaii and Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai, and Zee TV’s Pavitra Rishta and Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo, in the same time band, retained high viewerships at 4.5 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively.

The GEC space that attracts the highest viewership, is seeing Star Plus, Colors, Zee TV, Sony, NDTV Imagine, 9X, SAB and Real competing aggressively for eyeballs. And yet, the viewer chooses what to watch.

Among recently launched programmes across GECs, a lot opened poorly even as popular soaps like Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai (Star), Balika Vadhu (Colors), Bidaai (Star) and Uttaran (Colors) continued to rate high. Reality show Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’l Champs (Zee) sustained its place among the top 10 shows week after week. Star Plus’ second round of ex-cop Kiran Bedi-anchored Aap Ki Kachehri opened to good viewership again.

Punitha Arumugam, group CEO, Madison Media Group, says, “It’s programme TVRs, not channel GRPs that matter. Advertisers buy a basketful of programmes.” GRPs, or gross rating points, are the day’s or week’s average viewership of a channel. TVRs, or television rating points, measure how many viewers watched the programme at a particular time.

Joy Chakraborty, chief revenue officer, Zee Group, explains, “For the advertiser, more than three TVRs for any programme is good. Then there are the prime time slots, the target audience, and the price — perceived value pricing [based on expectations on programme performance] and demand pricing based on opening and subsequent viewership.”

Anupam Vasudev, executive vice president, marketing and communications, Star India, says, “The product has to deliver day-to-day. It’s not about one or two GRPs but about programming better, staying ahead of the game.”

Kamat says the age of five-year sagas is over. “Life has changed in the past six months. It’s all about content on your toes now. You are as good as the programmes you launch. This is not a conventional brand game. Revenue pressure is an everyday thing now. It’s the time of smart operators, not safe operators.”

A channel’s senior executive says that while channel ranking doesn’t get the ad revenues, good ranking does help you talk better pricing. But as long as channel earnings are primarily dependent on advertising, it’s programme viewership and how well a channel builds that up that will really matter.