Over four years back, in June 2004, STAR India believed that there would be an audience for the huge library that the channel had created over the previous years – thus came Star Utsav. The archived content had to have some value, and the repeat channel may well be able to find its own place in a media plan too. When the digital ratings from TAM Media Research were released earlier in the year, and Star Utsav emerged as a key channel amongst Hindi general entertainment channels, this repeat channel’s place in the media plans strengthened.
The year 2008 is being popularly called the year of the GECs, simply because the number of players doubled. As the year progressed, the original plans changed. Bindass stopped counting itself amongst GECs, and instead was competing with youth brands. Two others – Zee Next and 9X – tried hard before stopping to invest in the channels; 9X had, in fact, even attained the No. 3 position very briefly. Now, both channels air only repeats.
Zee Next perhaps has some advantage in the situation since the channel has Zee’s might behind it and access to Zee TV’s library. 9X, on the other hand, ceased all shooting, and has had to now settle with the library that it has created in less than a year.
In both cases, the players have stated that they are revisiting their strategies to see how best to approach the channel in the future. Nitin Vaidya, COO, National Channels, Hindi speaking markets, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL), informed, “We are observing how the market evolves, the viewing patterns change, and also how the advertiser scene develops, given the current slowdown period. We would then decide how to approach the content strategy for the channel. Until then we would not be investing in Zee Next.”
9X officials have been quoted on various occasions on their intentions to relook their programming strategy before moving forward.
exchange4media takes a closer look on how this repeat strategy affects the two brands.
Erosion in brand value
R Gowthaman, Leader, Mindshare South Asia, observed, “The brand has definitely suffered due to this repeat mode, more so in the case of 9X since it started off fine with the nine sentiments, was on the radar and appeared to be working very briefly too. But it is a worry that they are still showing repeats. The freshness goes away. This shows that the channel did not focus on the programmes that it had when it started off.”
NP Sathyamurthy, Joint President, Lintas Media Group, explained that the channels had now lost the chance of becoming a “bookmark channel”. He elaborated, “There are a set of channels that people would check on, and if there is nothing worthwhile being aired on it, they then move out. But they give the channel a chance. Channels like Star Plus, Zee TV and Sony are bookmark channels, and Colors has now become one.”
In the case of 9X, the channel is delivering around 45 GRPS, which are about the kind of numbers that channels like Sahara One and Sab are delivering. Zee Next has been on single digit GRPs only.
The experts are divided on whether ratings allow a channel to play a role in any media plan. Punitha Arumugam, Group CEO, Madison Media, said, “Rates are a function of the production cost and the ratings; movie channels or music channels have a low cost outlay too. Sometimes, a third line GEC can also be looked as a frequency builder. But the role then changes from that of a reach builder that a GEC is typically taken for. So, in that sense, a repeat channel has its use.”
Sathyamurthy, on the other hand, voices the school of thought that such channels do not really play a role for the advertiser. He explained, “We may use them for some purposes, but a 9X, for instance, is not even a decimal of our investments at present.”
The number of players competing to build frequency of a plan is too large. A GEC getting into that race is a worry. The experts, however, do not rule out the possibility that if any of the channels had to re-launch itself and come back with a real content differentiator, they could once again find their way in a media plan, but until then, it is difficult for these channels to be able to move in the market at all.