New Delhi: NDTV Imagine, the general entertainment channel that was launched on 21 January has already had a better start than other new channels in the same genre, an indication, according to one analyst, that the channel’s decision of linking its fortune to a flagship programme based on mythology has worked.
While a 13-day rating might not be the best comparison of the performance of a channel, NDTV Imagine registered an average market share of 2.2% in 13 days between 21 January and 2 February. In their first 13 days, Bindass and Zee Next, channels from the stable of UTV Global Broadcasting Ltd and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, respectively, had a market share of 0.4% each and 9X, launched by INX Media Pvt. Ltd, had a share of 0.9%, as per data from Audience Measurement and Analytics Ltd (Amap), an audience tracking firm. These three channels were launched last year.
Analysts attribute NDTV Imagine’s early success to differentiated programming and aggressive distribution, but add it’s too early to say if the channel can retain the lead, and consistently grab viewers from market leaders Star Plus and Zee TV.
“While most others took the soap (opera) route, Imagine went in for the mythology route in the form of Ramayan and that seems to have worked, at least, so far,” said Salil Pitale, who heads the media practice at the investment banking division of Enam Securities Pvt. Ltd. “The NDTV brand, Karan Johar’s backing and the management team headed by Sameer Nair seem to have worked. They have got a placement in prime band in most places, which shows they have struck coherent distribution deals,” added Pitale. A channel that’s in the prime band is carried in a prominent position (or channel number) by the cable network—this increases the chances of a channel being viewed because a large number of TV sets in the country can still feature only a limited number of channels.
Film-maker Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions Pvt. Ltd is a minority stakeholder in NDTV Imagine Ltd, a part of New Delhi Television Ltd and Johar, also a popular talk show host, is the brand ambassador of the channel. “Ramayan hel-ped us cut through the clutt-er,” said Nair, CEO, NDTV Im-agine. “All our shows have op-ened well. With good marketing and distribution, we shou-ld be able to sustain the lead.”
NDTV Imagine’s Ramayan recorded an average TV rating of 1.5 in its opening week. While impressive for a show in its opening week, the number is still way below that of top ranking shows such as market leader Star Plus’ Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, two popular soap operas. The two shows, according to Amap data, have consistently registered ratings of 5 and above.
Star Plus, the flagship channel of the Rupert Murdoch- controlled Star India Pvt. Ltd and Zee TV, the leading general entertainment channel from Zee Entertainment, together enjoy more than 70% relative market share.
Increasing competition has seen some players trying to differentiate themselves from the rest of the crowd. Zee Next, for instance, has positioned itself as a “younger sibling” of Zee TV, with programming targeted at the relatively younger viewers of general entertainment channels. UTV’s Bindass refuses to call itself a general entertainment channel. “We’re a youth entertainment channel,” said Zarina Mehta, CEO, GenX Entertainment Ltd, the UTV subsidiary that houses the Bindass bouquet of channels. “I don’t mind if we are at the bottom of TRPs (television rating points) because our programming targets the youth and that’s not as big as a universe that others target.”
Industry experts say general entertainment is a high-stakes segment, which explains the rush of competitors trying to make a dent in the market. Analysts say general entertainment channels together enjoy about 30% of total viewership, the highest for any single genre, while their share in the total TV advertising pie (by revenues) is around 40-45%.
The competition in this space is likely to intensify as there may be three more launches this year. Reliance-Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd and a yet-to-be named 50:50 joint venture between Alva Brothers, the holding firm of TV content producer Miditech Pvt. Ltd, and Turner International India Pvt. Ltd are set to launch their Hindi general entertainment channels sometime soon. Viacom18 is a 50:50 JV between Viacom Inc. and the Network18 Group.