As Indians, we thrive on our daily diet of entertainment and our entertainers thrive on our insatiable hunger for more entertainment. Television continues to be the advertisers’ playground, as a mass medium to reach potential markets, as here the consumer sits ready and available and the money is put where the eyes are. This makes general entertainment, predominantly in the Hindi markets, the most lucrative space in terms of yielding good returns on investment, since this is what viewers are found loyally glued to. Looking back at the year gone by, the Hindi general entertainment genre has witnessed more than its share of excitement. There have been hard lessons learned for some and pioneering moves made by others that will carve the path for the years ahead.
Think Digital: New Age Marketing Strategies
The year began on a digital note with the then top four channels – Star Plus, NDTV Imagine (now Imagine), Zee TV and Sony – grabbing a new-found avenue by its horns to engage with their younger audiences – the growing power of social media. Any buzz surrounding high investment reality shows was welcome and thus, viral campaigns made the rounds and Facebook applications popped up. ‘Sach ka Saamna’ ‘Pati, Patni aur Woh’, Dance India Dance’ and ‘Dance Premier League’ respectively, were the shows that tried their hands on social media platforms.
In an out-of-the-box marketing tie-up, STAR Network and Intel Core Processors came together to promote the product ‘family’ line through brand integration across STAR’s five channels using the network’s positioning: ‘Star Parivaar’.
By October 2010, the CommonWealth Games in Delhi put the spotlight on high definition TV and even though Prasar Bharati employees went on a strike in November, it got the ball rolling for the I&B Ministry’s proposal for digitalisation of transmitters and studios in the DD network approved as early as April. As the year progressed, we saw the introduction of many channels in high definition and it may well be the only available format in the near future.
Creative Moves in Content
Sony’s collaboration deal with YRF TV (a division of Yashraj Films) in the first half of the year for five shows did not live up to the expectations of media planners. Around that time, Star One made the strategic move of redefining its core target group from 18 years olds to 23 year olds and adding two fresh shows to compliment their new audience. By November, Star One switched to fourth gear and launched four new youth-centric fiction shows. Imagine brought in an innovative twist by launching two fiction shows with strong male protagonists – ‘Gunahon Ka Devta’ and ‘Baba Aiso Varr Dhoondo’ – in an attempt to garner male audiences. Colors and Zee took things up a notch by whipping up viewer interest by involving them in the content process by accepting suggestions for selecting the name of a show to deciding on the lead protagonist after a leap in time. Sab TV managed to create brand resonance by unique format shows like the silent format ‘Gutur Gu’ and most recently, by creating a weekly time band dedicated to magic shows.
The year also saw a generous dose of the reality shows as Imagine gave us the ‘Swamyamwar’s, Amitabh Bachchan returned as the face of ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati 4’ with the season numbers averaging well, ‘Indian Idol’ and ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi 3’ saw a declining graph, ‘Bigg Boss 4’ continues to do wonders amidst all the extended court stay orders, and finally, ‘Masterchef India’ did fairly well. The new batch of reality shows includes big ticket properties like Sony’s ‘Jhalak Dikkhla Jaa’ with Madhuri Dixit and Imagine’s ‘Zor ka Jhatka’ with Shah Rukh Khan. ‘Dance India Dance’ was launched on December 31, 2010.
Branding the Band
The Hindi GEC is a hard cookie to crack. Experimentation and innovation, backed by research have been the guiding stars for channels in 2010, just when one would think every card in the game has been played. In February, Colors decided to tap into the afternoon time band with ‘Sanjhi Dopahar’. This led to a ripple effect, as channels experimented to find the right format for the right time slot. There on, Colors even braved a reality show ‘Kitchen Champion’ in the afternoon band. Sony tested the waters of the afternoon band for YRF repeats and utilised the 12 noon slot for repeat telecasts of Bollywood movie ‘3 Idiots’, which in turn caused Colors to rethink its preferred band to showcase Bollywood premiere ‘Yeh Hain Mumbai Meri Jaan’. As the gap between theatre and television premieres fades, the race to acquire popular Bollywood movies will intensify and will add to channel spends. The morning band continues to serve as a ‘filler’ as per media planners.
As the competition grew fierce, channels began to spice up their Saturday primetime offerings, alternating from reality, mythological and later awards shows and movies to lure audiences. Looking at the bigger picture, the genre has seen its primetime expand from the traditional 8 pm to 10 pm to 7 pm to 11:30 pm, where channels like Star Plus, Star One and now Sab are showing original content. The sheer pull factor of good content was evident when Star and Zee shows outperformed IPL3 in viewership.
If Looks Could Kill…
While price wars did not make one bat an eyelid, 2010 marked another kind of war for Hindi GECs – rebranding. Four out of six key players shed their skins and put on fresh faces. Sahara One and UTV led the lot by announced complete aesthetic makeovers in May, with UTV celebrating its 20th anniversary by brandishing a new logo, which had mixed feedback from media planners. Right at their heels in June, Star Plus adopted the ‘Ruby Star’ as their channel look. In October, Sab marked 15 years of existence with a brand campaign titled ‘Ab Bache Bache ko Pata Hai ki Asli Mazaa SAB Ke Sath Aata Hai.’
An eagle’s eye view would show visible growth for the genre, both horizontally and vertically, beyond the conventional defines of primetime and as an increase above spot ad rates. The genre currently stands with Star Plus as the leader, Colors at second place, Sony and Zee rubbing shoulders at third position. In the second tier, we have Star One, SAB and Imagine.
Star Plus has set the benchmark, having enjoyed supremacy for a greater chunk of the year by not only breaking past self set records (crossed 400 GRPs twice this year), but steadily rising and maintaining a consistency in holding the top spot. Even as the genre appears saturated, new entrants like Raj Television Network’s Raj Parivaar have stepped in this year. With tier two channels setting ambitious target for themselves and gearing to put up a tough fight, it promises to be an interesting action packed year ahead in 2011.