Home / Companies / Zee overtakes Star first time in 10 years

New Delhi: Around two months after it lost for the first time in nine years, its pole position in the so-called general entertainment channel (GEC) space to Colors, Star Plus has slipped to No. 3 in the week ended May 30.

Back in form: ZEEL CEO and Zee TV business head Nitin Vaidya. Ashesh Shah / Mint

The new No. 2 is Zee Television, the flagship channel of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) that managed to overtake Star for the first time in 10 years.

To be sure the difference between the three channels isn’t very significant. According to data provided by TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd, the Mumbai-based television audience measurement agency, for the week ended 30 May, Zee TV beat Star Plus by a marginal five gross rating points (GRPs) with 245 GRPs as against Star’s 240 GRPs. GRPs are a total of television rating points (TRP) over a period. TRP is a measure of the percentage of viewers watching a particular programme at a given time.

Star Plus is the flagship channel of Star India Pvt. Ltd and Colors, the GEC of Viacom 18 Media Pvt. Ltd. The 10-month-old Colors was the first to break Star Plus’ dream run in mid-April. Now, Zee, with a steady performance in the past 10 weeks seems to have caught up.

“It’s not that Star Plus is not doing something right, it’s just the state of the Hindi general entertainment space which has seen increased competition in the past year, creating a need to strategize and redefine what works," said Farokh Balsara, national sector leader, media and entertainment, Ernst and Young India, an audit and consulting firm. “The first mover was Colors that came in with a strong content plan tailored specifically to the youth, with soaps and serials but also big ticket reality shows to draw TRPs, and when this worked, other channels followed. So if you see, almost all these channels have a similar production line-up making their TRPS also match up."

A spokesperson for Star Plus said in an email that “leadership is not a weekly game and Star Plus has consistently held the leadership slot since the last nine years. We have been in the process of refreshing our programming content since the last year with the launch of many new shows. Yeh Rishta and Bidaai on Star Plus are the top shows in the Hindi GEC space and a favourite of the viewers. We will continue to improvise and innovate in this highly competitive industry".

Meanwhile, Zee’s new top management team is looking to aggressively?launch?programmes. “We aim to be clear leaders in this space with our new content line-up which is what has brought us to this spot today. We have created these GRPs and not bought them like some other channels did by showing blockbuster movies without ad breaks," Nitin Vaidya, chief operating officer, ZEEL and business head, Zee TV. The channel plans to launch 10 shows this year. In 2008, it did four.

Competition isn’t the only factor hurting GECs. Media experts also point to big-ticket cricket events such as the 37-day Indian Premier League that ended 24 May and the International Cricket Council’s Twenty20 World Cup scheduled to begin on 5 June as factors that have resulted and will result in audiences moving away from GECs in crucial summer months when advertising is usually heavy. “If you see, there are a lot of new programmes on TV, especially on Hindi GECs because these channels are desperate to win back viewership from the recently concluded IPL. This will also drive competition within the Hindi entertainment space further," said Priti Murthy, national director, Insights at Maxus, one of the media buying agencies of GroupM India Pvt. Ltd.

Most channels are in a tizzy trying to launch shows and even relaunch their own identities. Multiscreen Media Pvt. Ltd, the broadcast partner for IPL, actually used the platform to heavily promote new shows and a new identity of its GEC Sony Entertainment Television. In the past month, Colors has launched as many as seven new shows and opened up the Sunday morning slot for programmes.

“With the fragmentation that has occurred in the Hindi GEC space, viewers are more show-oriented than channel-oriented, which reduces loyalty to a particular channel and GRPs gradually even out across the board," said Anand Shah, an analyst with Mumbai-based brokerage firm Angel broking Ltd. “Also, the duration of shows are much shorter than before. Now a show will be on for three-four months rather than years, and this too makes viewers switch preferences according to what’s on, irrespective of the channel, and the ratings shift accordingly."

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