Carrying on from Part 1 of our feature on English GECs, the concluding part delves into the loopholes and challenges that the genre has faced right from its inception. Starting with serials like ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Remington Steele’ in the initial days of Star TV to a handful of channels today that spoil us with choice...
The genre journey - Challenges and Changes
As the New Year set in, Star World and Big CBS Prime went full thrust on festive programming. As 2011 rolled in, the space has seen aggressive action with channels loosening purse strings for acquisitions of new shows, rebranding and innovative ways of keeping apace with this demanding audience.
The English general entertainment channel business has its own set of core issues. For one, from an efficiency standpoint, a channel’s CPRP may run in lakhs, if not millions and thus prove to be expensive. As per media experts, the genre had lost much of its sheen in the dip during 2009 with advertisers exercising caution on media spends. This placed the English GEC genre on the last rung of priority. At this point, the viewership needs were being met from other entertainment sectors such as the popular dose of Hindi GECs and of course, the steady flow of cricketing events. By investing in new show launches or procuring new properties off the table, the genre found itself in a juncture where sustaining took precedence.
In the past year, there is a new surge of emphasis on content being placed for this genre. New entrant in the genre, Prime, from the Reliance and CBS studio joint venture launched in December 2010 electrified the competitive mix by wetting the audience appetite for fresher shows.
BIG CBS Networks’ Aparnaa Pande said, “At the time that we entered the space, the English GEC genre was stagnant. Replay of old seasons were causing people to not pay attention or demand something new. They were getting their entertainment by purchasing it abroad or getting it online. With a minimum 24 hour time lag, Prime changed the game with the latest programming. This has proven to be good for the content market, viewers and advertisers as the people who are aware of and want the latest shows, are the exact target group audience.”
The key attraction for this audience is that the time lag between the premiere of new shows in the USA and the subsequent availability of same show in India, has decreased significantly. With the home countries following a once-a-week show FPC format, Indian English GECs prefer to create a supply bank of complete seasons of shows and then play them as and when available. The genre faces the challenge of building an appointment viewing with a well informed, self reliant and fast paced audience who can comfortably avail of the internet or find ways of accessing their favourite shows, without waiting for it to reach their television screens.
Breaking down the programming strategy for the channel, Saurabh Yagnik, General Manager and Senior Vice President, English Channels, STAR, explained, “The basic strategy is simplicity for the viewer. With a fewer number of shows, we are looking at forming appointment viewing in the weekday with a strict format. This helps build the show, form an affinity with the characters and help in the promotion of the show. Our flagship property, ‘Dexter’ and ‘Las Vegas’ form our weekday primetime. Our weekend property, ‘Torentz’ is where we have two new shows, once a week, with a minimum time lag from the original showcasing.”
Apart from the on-air combo promos across the network and consumer mailer route, the channel has gone high on the digital front. For their flagship show, ‘Dexter’, Outdoor is another medium, with special focus on Kolkata as the market has shown an affinity for crime-based thrillers. The channel has gone full throttle with interesting brand activation in multiplexes, a game on the website, a Facebook viral application and dedicated page. The channels has also deployed fresh approaches in promoting its new properties such as localizing on air promos with Indian youth, bytes from television stars for customising promos for shows, ‘Mr. Sunshine’ and ‘Community’ and engaging fans via contests online.
Anurag Bedi, Business Head, Zee Café, agreed that the genre is seeing a fair bit of aggression, “Everyone’s been aggressive. We rebranded the channel, have been premiering new shows and the channels has been accepted and built a loyal base of audiences.” Commenting on the challenge of providing near live telecast to Indian audiences, he added, “We are bound by the American audience once a week consumption pattern due to which we have to wait for the availability of a complete season at times.” Shows such as ‘The Tonight Show’, being a daily in the USA, is closer to the original telecasts with a 24 hour delay.”
From a BBC standpoint, Shourie said, “The English entertainment audience is a snacking audience. They are looking for variety. We are a multi-genre channel to cater to this need. There is an excellent mix of unparalleled factual, lifestyle, drama, entertainment content on BBC Entertainment.”
New on the TV menu
Star World has unleashed a burst of new show launches this year and has new introductions lined over the coming months. “Fully loaded March”, launched five new shows with big marketing noise in the month with ‘Dexter’ as the flagship show and ‘Las Vegas’ and ‘Community’ as the other main crowd pullers. The weekend property, ‘Torentz’ will feature in the 9 to 11 pm slot. April has seen the return of new seasons of popular shows such as ‘Desperate Housewives’, ‘Castle’, How I Met Your Mother’, along with new additions such as ‘Family Guy’.
Zee Café has introduced a range of new dramas such as ‘Body of Proof’ and ‘Huge’, ‘The Middle’, ‘Britannia High’, a youth centric musical drama. In the comedy line up, there is ‘Bleep My dad Says’ and ‘Mike and Molly’ with the regular dose of new seasons of ‘The Mentalist’, ‘Big Bang Theory’ and ‘The Vampire Diaries’.
BB Entertainment’s programming line-up for April includes a host of new series will continue this month such as ‘The Apprentice’, ‘Human Planet’, ‘Dancing With The Stars’, ‘Ross Kemp in Afghanistan’, ‘Sherlock’, the Food and Home block. Speaking on upcoming attractions on the channel, Shourie said, “The month of April is a big celebration for us with the British Royal Wedding. We have a 16 day lineup of exclusive shows on the British monarchy that will start April 16 onwards at 9 PM. This will be our countdown to the big day – April 29, when BBC Entertainment will showcase the live feed from London from 12:30 PM onwards of the Royal Wedding.”
AXN will introduce ‘Guinness World Records New Zealand’ in April, while new seasons of ‘Leverage’ and other popular shows such as ‘Top Chef’ and ‘Wipeout’ continue.
Prime will dish out the Hollywood dope with ‘Entertainment Tonight’, ‘Bellator’ for its loyal male viewers, coupled with ‘CSI’, ‘Late Show with David Letterman’, ‘Fraiser’ and a helping of movies.
Love offers shows such as ‘America’s Next Top Model’, ‘the Oprah Winfrey Show’ and ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’.
Still hoping to catch a re-run?
English GECs Part 1 – Finally getting the game right