New Delhi: A labour dispute that has forced the country’s much-watched entertainment channels to air reruns rather than new episodes of popular programmes has had a major impact on audiences for television channels.
According to the viewership data from television audience measurment agency, Audience Measurement and Analytics Pvt. Ltd (A-Map), the prime time gross rating points (GRPs) of most Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs) have declined between 35% and 55% in the three days since 10 November compared with the prior week.
GRPs are the sum total of the television rating points (TRPs) of a particular programme, or a channel over a specific period of time.
TRPs, in turn, refer to the percentage of people watching a particular programme at a given point in time. It essentially reflects a channel’s or a programme’s viewership share during that time slot. Prime time refers to 7-11pm.
The ratings are vital for television channels in terms of what they can charge advertisers as well as minimum audiences that some channels promise advertisers in clinching ad deals.
The Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) called for a walkout alleging stagnant wages since 2007. The strike began on 2 October.
As a result, content producers have not been able to supply fresh content to television broadcasters, forcing the channels to rerun shows.
A-Map data indicates that the viewership share of the top-rated shows, such as Bidaai, Kis Desh Mei Hai Mera Dil and Kasamh Se, declined by 91%, 89% and 70%, respectively, in the first three days. These shows are aired by Star India Pvt. Ltd’s Star Plus channel and Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd’s Zee TV, respectively.
Market leader Star Plus seems to be worst hit by the strike. The channel’s GRP dropped by 71% on Wednesday compared with the same day last week.
“The problem between the producers and workers is being passed on to the broadcasters because they know we are the ones who would lose in the fight,” said a Star executive, requesting anonymity. “We are hoping this is resolved soon because if this continues for long, we along with all the broadcasters will have to lower advertising rates.”
Meanwhile advertisers, who pay between Rs20,000 and Rs2 lakh for 10 seconds of commercial air-time on Hindi GECs, have begun expressing their concern over the thinning viewership.
“We are not willing to continue our exposure to general entertainment channels. We are talking to our agencies to reallocate our ads to the news and sports channels,” said S. Govindan, general manager (personal banking and operations) at Union Bank of India.
“This is not a good thing to happen to us. We are anyway dealing with curtailed advertising spends due to recession and now, we are stuck in the middle of the strike,” said Sameer Nair, chief executive of NDTV Imagine Ltd, owned by New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV). “We will wait for TAM’s ratings that will be out next Wednesday before we decide on revising our ad rates.”
TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd is the other television audience measurement agency, based in Mumbai.
NDTV Imagine’s GRPs progressively worsened this week. The channel’s TRPs declined by 15%, 18% and 36%, respectively, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Another leading channel, Sony Entertainment, has said if the strike doesn’t get resolved by 20 November, it will revise its ad rates. “AAAI (Advertising Agencies Association of India) and ISA (Indian Society of Advertisers) are supporting our cause. But we will have to call a meeting and offer advertisers new deals if the situation continues beyond 20 November,” said Rohit Gupta, president (network sales) at Multiscreen Media Pvt. Ltd, formerly SET India Pvt. Ltd.
“We hope producers and broadcasters will realize their losses, which could be running in crores and will come around in the next 7-10 days,” said Dinesh Chaturvedi, general secretary of FWICE.