Borrowing the lines of late Art Buchwald, American humorist and Pulitzer Prize winner: “Television has a real problem. They have no page two.”
The reality of TV content is that over 4.2 million hours of TV content is being beamed annually to Indian homes and less than 8 per cent is quality original content created for TV and out of that, less than 3 per cent is financially viable.
In the two-decade life span of satellite TV, the K-era captured the hearts and minds in Hindi heartland for almost a decade, which triggered a gold rush for a challenger, which brought in a flood of international imports (sellers, concepts, formats). A host of national channels – existing and new – started searching for the breakthrough.
Viewers all along got their daily dose of reality from news, the real father of reality TV! Strangely, 50 per cent of the 480-odd channels received in this country are news and current affairs channels.
Over a period, strong viewer preference for local language, local culture, local setting and local stories started to emerge. Today, local language programming is the preferred content in over 60 per cent of C&S viewers in the country.
The South led the way, setting standard for language content that connected with viewers, pioneering non-fiction shows of games, skill, talent and behaviour. Progressively evolving fiction with storylines mirroring social trends and rich in local symbolism. Regionals now dominate West and East.
Andhra Pradesh TV space
Let us look at the Andhra Pradesh TV space in particular with 92 per cent C&S penetration, which has grown both in terms of revenue as well as number of channels.
Talking about news channels in particular – news consumption in Andhra Pradesh is much higher than any other state, as the state witnessed many events post 2005. For a lot of other reasons, of the Rs 700-crore ad pie in the Andhra Pradesh market, 15 per cent is what the news channels corner, hence a lot of infrastructure and political players jumped into the fray, more for vested interests.
The already large presence of the film industry in Andhra Pradesh has seen a phenomenal and unfettered expansion through commercial television industry, both in entertainment and news segments. Interestingly, film industry takes up a significant chunk of news content, contributing extra velocity in the ratings race.
Until 2008, there were only a few Telugu news channels in the state, such as TV9, ETV2, NTV and TV5, alongside the entertainment ones, like Doordarshan’s Saptagiri, ETV, Gemini TV, Teja TV, Maa TV and Zee Telugu. The simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in 2009 marked a surge in news channels as film star Chiranjeevi announced his entry into active politics. These included Sakshi TV, HMTV, HYTV, Maha TV, Studio-N, Zee 24 Gantalu and ABN Andhra Jyothy. With the launch of Raj TV, the state now has 15 news channels compared to nine general entertainment channels. It’s intriguing to see this rush to start news channels in an already cluttered space. It can be seen that there was neither clear economics nor appealing newsworthiness in the launch.
Coming to the GEC genre, clearly the audience have been spoilt for choice, be it fiction, non-fiction, or movies. Any back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that today, on an average, a household gets to watch 11 movies a day, a far cry from the initial days of satellite invasion. Coming to the next big GRP driver – the fiction segment of any channel, masterfully juggling tears, smiles, campy inside jokes – the content churned out by top channels delivered unstoppable entertainment in prime time. The data given below clearly analyse the TVR contribution of fiction to non-fiction vis-à-vis movie.
To have an absolute winner in terms of content in the market, marketing plays a pivotal role. From doing standalone campaigns, television channels have been seen doing integrated campaigns more so to present the bouquet of offerings in a particular channel. The campaigns we see today are a mix of traditional and non-traditional media across print, radio, TV, digital, OOH, experimental marketing. A case in point has been the high-decibel campaigns done by Zee TV in the past, positioning its non-fiction genre/ films, of late, Maa TV has gone beyond billboards and retail touch points to digital media. Gemini TV’s innovation in marketing has been remarkable over the last one year. In film branding, where the brand seamlessly blends into the content of the movie, has been a clincher – ‘Jhummandi Naadam’, a musical hit, is a case in point, where Gemini Music brand was positioned.
This cluttered market is poised to grow further, but consolidation symptoms on the channels’ front have started to appear.
(Sanjay Reddy is Senior Vice President, Sun TV Network, Business Head, Telugu Cluster. It has been recently reported that Reddy is likely to take over as COO of Sun TV, replacing Ajay Vidyasagar, who has put in his papers.)