Though niche in content and far removed from the razzle and dazzle of the general entertainment channels, religious and spirituality oriented channels have been quietly gathering a dedicated viewership. However, most media planners are yet to include spirituality-based channels as part of their core media plans, and are only preferring them as ‘add ons’.
The existing players in this genre include Sanskar, Aastha, Sadhna, Jeevan, Zee Jagran and God, among others. The recently launched channels include Divya from Chandigarh-based Divya Broadcasting Network Pvt Ltd. Now, yoga and spiritual guru Baba Ramdev, too, is set to launch two channels exclusively for bhajans and Vedas. It may be recalled that the Times Group has been in the process of launching a spirituality-based channel.
One might ask how many mythological serials and shows on astrology would people like to watch. This leads to the question on whether there is the scope and need for more players in this genre. Aren’t the existing channels covering every aspect of religion and spirituality extensively?
exchange4media spoke to some media planners on how the spirituality genre has been performing.
Religion is a viable proposition
Sanjoy Chakrabarty, COO, Dentsu India, explained, “The biggest connection of spiritual channels is faith in religion. If you see fundamentally, religion is one of the strongest emotional connect, it is a viable proposition. Anything that has to do with faith can sell well with the Indian audience. These channels connect with the people, but not to a major extent. They are very niche, focused and have limitations also in terms of placement of ads. There has to be some kind of sanctity, you cannot place any kind of ad on spiritual channel because you don’t have that kind of liberty. Somewhere, media planners are cautious or have a ‘stay away’ kind of approach towards spiritual channels and, therefore, this genre does not play an important role in most media plans.”
He further said, “Religion as a preposition can be practiced well if you make that relevant to the people, the way the mass channels do. There are enough mythological serials and astrology shows that are doing quite well on mass channel in terms of numbers. These channels normally play religious stories in drama format along with entertainment and that’s what delivers numbers for them. Spiritual channels need a breakthrough, and unless and until they do this, they won’t be able to grow in terms of revenue or viewership.”
“If you go to see what is played on mass channels in the name of religion, it actually belongs to spiritual channels. If spiritual channels start airing such programmes and if these channels are marketed properly, then definitely ball will in their court,” Chakrabarty added.
Nikhil Rangnekar, Executive Director, India - West, Starcom Worldwide, pointed out, “Spiritual channels cannot be compared to mass channels. The content that is shown on the spiritual channels is different from what is shown on mass channels. Spiritual channels normally talk about philosophies, how to build a healthy mind, have discussions on how Yoga helps to live a healthy life, and so on. It is not targeted at any specific audience, but appeals to the masses. Spiritual channels do play an important role, but depending on the category. When it comes to placing an ad on spiritual channels, the decision is taken on qualitative basis rather then quantitative basis. When you have niche targeting products, then that definitely gets advertised on channels like these.”
There is scope, but not for all
Likewise, Chandradeep Mitra, President, Mudra Max, said, “There is scope for spiritual channels in the market, but not for all. Only a few of them will be able to sustain themselves. These few players will be able to survive only on the basis on the content they have, the financial back-up that they have till the business picks up, as well as on the kind of smart marketing for the channel. Currently, spiritual channels are not being marketing so aggressively or they are still not savvy in terms of marketing as compared to other genres. These channels use some kind of modern marketing tools and techniques, but not to a great extent.”
Mitra further said, “Spiritual channels do play some kind role in the media plan, but they only act as ‘add on’, and cannot be the core part of a media plan. But when you have niche targeting products such as books on religion or CDs of bhajan /prayers, they get advertised on these spiritual channels. You will find enough categories such as medicine ads, healthcare ads and so on, that are addressed to these channels.”
Himanka Das, Associate Vice President, Lintas Media Group, noted, “It is very interesting to note that there are 12 television channels, what we usually term as spiritual channels. These channels are not to promote any specific religion. If we diagnose the content, it is about philosophical discourse to build a healthy mind, Yoga to live a healthy life, and what we should do to create a better world. In a sense, it is not targeted at any specific target audience, it appeals to different age groups and social clusters, nor any specific geographies. Mythological serials on GECs are dramatisation of our Epics. They do not propagate a way of life. Hence, they do not compete with channels that are in the spirituality space.”
“90 per cent of the revenue comes from the discourses conducted by spiritual leaders/ trusts. Actually, one has to pay to get the discourse televised. 10 per cent is from ad revenue and tele-shopping ad revenue,” he informed.
Speaking on the advertisers, Das said, “Advertisers from categories such as non-aerated drinks, products which have health benefits, food and winter wear have been regulars on this genre since they are targeted across age groups and social clusters.”
According to Das, Zee Jagran had defined a new future in this genre with its content mix. “If 87 per cent of Aastha’s content is devotional and spiritual discourse, then Zee Jagran has a mix of 38 per cent devotional and spiritual discourse, while the rest is a mix of health and fitness, feature films, cartoons/ animation related to mythology and devotion,” he added.