Keeping up with changing tastes

Keeping up with changing tastes
Comment E-mail Print Share
First Published: Mon, Aug 10 2009. 08 39 PM IST

Keertan Adyanthaya.
Keertan Adyanthaya.
Updated: Mon, Aug 10 2009. 08 39 PM IST
New Delhi: Television in India is dominated—in terms of advertising and viewership—by general entertainment channels (GECs).
According to television audience research agency TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd, advertising on Hindi GECs accounted for 8% of the total ad volumes on Indian television in 2008. A recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that in 2008 firms spent Rs8,420 crore on TV advertising. And for a one-month period ended 25 July, all the top 10 programmes by viewership on Indian television were on these channels.
There have been several changes in such channels this year.
Prime time television has been moved up by 30 minutes to 7.30pm, reality shows that were earlier restricted to weekends are now a part of weekday prime time programming, investments in research and marketing for shows have grown by at least 50% from last year, and dealings with advertisers are being tweaked, giving companies coping with the slowdown more flexibility to spend on advertising.
With competition increasing in the space, Mint spoke to senior executives of the top five GECs on their formula for staying ahead of the competition, key trends and strategies for combating the slowdown. Edited excerpts:
Keertan Adyanthaya
Executive vice-president and general manager
Star India Pvt Ltd (Star Plus)
What are the trends you see in the GEC space?
Hindi general entertainment is going through a seismic shift right now. There is a lot of choice available to the audiences in the fiction space as well as in the non-fiction space. In fiction, viewers are embracing shows which have high levels of emotional drama. There are also shows which have significant localization and are set in the regional milieu that have captured the imagination of viewers. In the non-fiction space, you have shows which transcend genres that are successful.
Keertan Adyanthaya.
What would you identify as the growth drivers for your channel today? Have these changed since last year?
The growth drivers for us are our fiction shows. We have shed the legacy shows of the past and are creating an entire line-up of fresh shows in the fiction space that are made up of taut stories, mega scale, grandeur and heightened drama. In addition to this, we have a whole roster of non-fiction shows which do not walk the beaten path, the first of which is ‘Sach Ka Saamna’.
Competition always leads to path-breaking new ideas in various product categories and industries, and ours is no different. At Star, we have always seen a need to innovate but the difference now is that after many years of success, we feel there is a need for change and this has been brought about not just by competition building in this space but even by the changing habits of viewers. We are now looking at different styles of programming, especially in fiction.
I think 2009-10 will see even more of innovation and interesting programming.
What impact has the economic slowdown had on your channel?
Some categories like real estate and construction, as in cement companies, etc., have stopped spending. But at Star, we believe in long-term relationships with our advertisers; so there has not been much change in this respect as the big advertisers such as FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) companies continue to advertise as they always have.
Rohit Gupta
President, network sales
Multiscreen Media Pvt Ltd
(Sony Entertainment Television)
What are the trends you see in the GEC space?
The GEC space is getting crowded and I think most channels are desperately trying to find their own niche now, so audiences can be segmented. For that same reason, Sony recently went through a complete rebranding exercise. Now our soaps and our overall programming are very different from what they were. We now cater specifically to female audiences between the ages 12 and 35. This helps our advertisers as they can reach out to their specific target group while still being on a mass media platform.
Rohit Gupta
What would you identify as the growth drivers for your channel today? Have these changed since last year?
For the last two years, it was reality non-fiction shows that were the growth drivers for Sony. But this year our fiction shows, which were earlier not doing well, have become very popular among viewers. Shows such as ‘Ladies Special’ and ‘Bhaskar Bharti’ are very contemporary in their themes and are something viewers can relate to.
There is definitely a need for differentiated content among Hindi GECs because the audience we are reaching out to has changed… People don’t follow channels any more, they follow shows; so there is no audience loyalty that we can bank on. This makes our task very difficult because we have to come out with content that can get people to stick on with our channel. So a lot of research has started going into shows before they are launched and after they are on-air. You see, shows are getting more expensive nowadays—the cost of fiction shows are up by 20% from about two years ago and even reality TV shows are much more expensive, depending on the kind of judges you get in, or celebrities you invite. Therefore research has begun playing a critical role in TV production and, going forward, more channels will invest heavily in research before planning a new show.
What impact has the economic slowdown had on your channel?
The January-March months were slow for us but thanks to IPL (the Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket tournament), where our revenue doubled, we manage to pick up during April-June. But IPL took away close to Rs500 crore in advertising revenue from the market, so other channels were hit by the slowdown.
Overall, the slowdown has not impacted our revenues as such, but there have been some changes in our dealings with advertisers. For instance there are less committed spends as annual deals are fewer than last year as advertisers are signing smaller deals.
Nitin Vaidya
Chief operating officer, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd and business head, Zee TV
What are the trends you see in the GEC space?
From the audiences’ point of view, it is very clear that they want new story lines and differential programming. Looking at the success we’ve achieved of late, it is clear that shows such as ‘Aap Ki Antara’ and ‘Agle Janam…Bitiya...’, that address issues such as autism and trafficking of girls have had a big role to play because they deal with something different and break away from past norms. The message that viewers sent us was “don’t take us for granted” and it pushed channels in this space to give them what they want.
Nitin Vaidya. Photo: Ashesh Shah / Mint
What would you identify as the growth drivers for your channel today? Have these changed since last year?
Differential story lines are definitely something that have helped achieve growth for Zee. Our endeavour has always been to create GRPs (gross rating points) and not buy them with movies and ad-free programming; so when we achieve the growth we have, it is purely because of the quality of our programmes.
Also, we recently pushed our prime time programming up by half an hour. Our prime time band now starts at 7.30pm and not 8pm as it used to because viewers have started consuming TV earlier. This strategy has worked for us, and now most other channels have adopted 7.30pm as prime time too.
It is something we have always done at Zee and more so with increased competition. But even in our planning stage, we want to make sure that we take care of Indian sensibilities and culture and not make viewers uncomfortable. So we focus on shows that are in sync with Indians and ones that gives us a clear margin.
What impact has the economic slowdown had on your channel?
The slowdown has impacted Zee and everyone else. Our advertising revenue was hit but we have become conscious of our costs and with this new business model, we should be back on track as soon as the economy recovers.
Nikhil Madhok
Vice-president, marketing
NDTV Imagine Ltd
What are the trends you see in the GEC space?
I think what’s happening in the GEC space today is that innovation has gone up drastically. Two years ago, there were some two-three shows being launched annually and these shows were being replaced after a long period. Now every other month, there is a new launch as channels have at least six-seven new shows lined up for a year. Even the money involved in marketing these shows has gone up by nearly 50%. Also these promotions are not just in-house as it used to be but on buses, trains, radio, newspapers and digital media.
Nikhil Madhok
What would you identify as the growth drivers for your channel today? Have these changed since last year?
Good story lines get you good ratings and that’s been the mantra to drive growth; but what’s happening now as compared to 2007-08 is that there is a bias towards reality shows to bring in the TRPs (television rating points). You see, reality shows were big in 2005 -06 with all the singing and dancing contests. But the trend remained the same right up to last year, so these shows started doing poorly. In the last 8-10 months, differential concepts have been applied to reality TV and this new offering has created excitement among viewers. Another change is that reality shows were earlier aired on weekends but now they are becoming an important part of weekday prime time television. So this scheduling change is bringing back lapsed viewers.
General entertainment is fast becoming a broad term to describe this space because of all the segmentation of audiences that channels are doing to differentiate their content from each other. Of late, channels are defining their audiences as women-focused or youth (focused), pan-India or urban. In NDTV, our focus is primarily women, so our content has also visibly shifted to cater better to this genre.
What impact has the economic slowdown had on your channel?
The slowdown has impacted all channels, so the major effect it has had on our dealings is rationalization of costs. Especially since shows are getting more expensive, channels are cutting down on production costs behind the scenes. Also, there is more research going into launching new shows.
Rameet Arora
Marketing head
Colors
(Viacom 18 Media Pvt Ltd)
What are the trends you see in the GEC space?
Sameness doesn’t work any more. We’re seeing a higher degree of experimentation and innovation in content and format across the board. New stories, new themes, fresh characters are the order of the day. Home-grown formats like ‘Chote Miyan’, ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Aap ki Kacheri’ coexist with successful international formats localized for India. Also, show loyalty has a new price tag called expectation. The category has always relied on show loyalty more than platform loyalty, but today every slot throws its own dynamics and unique viewer expectations. And increased choice means expectations come at a price. There’s equally compelling content you can lose a viewer to. No show can take its loyalty for granted. Also, real stories and themes inspired by society means many real issues are out of the closet and up for debate. Contrary to our belief that conservative India does not want to acknowledge these issues, viewers are actually rewarding this debate. GECs are also seeing highdecibel, innovative marketing and disruptive scheduling. Marketing has evolved from show awareness to a battle for viewer engagement and share of voice both on air and off it. The game has finally found a third dimension in promotion beyond content and distribution. All the so-called rules of scheduling are being broken. Further, viewer engagement means greater expectation and more chance of sampling. There is a premium on the channel that houses a show. Which means true channel brands are finally evolving.
Rameet Arora. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
What would you identify as the growth drivers for your channel today? Have these changed since last year?
We launched on a three-pronged strategy of differentiated content, disruptive scheduling and clutter-breaking marketing—all on the back of distribution that gave us access to viewers. The first priority was to get people onto the channel and engaged to shows. We’ve put a high premium internally on performance of shows and rationalized our product through the year. We’ve launched the Sunday morning time band and strengthened the weekend slot.
Today, as the “highest reach” channel in the country, our mandate is to continuously reinvent ourselves with fresh, compelling content that continues to deliver a differentiated platform, variety, cohesive family viewing, and a high degree of “relatability”.
What impact has the economic slowdown had on your channel?
Being high-reach has its perks. Having built reach quickly, we have often enjoyed a first on share of wallet status. To that extent, the slowdown has not affected us.
However, the slowdown has been a fantastic opportunity to work more closely with advertisers, helping build not just reach but also impact.
Comment E-mail Print Share
First Published: Mon, Aug 10 2009. 08 39 PM IST