For Hindi mass entertainment, 2004 means a continuous downfall. Courtesy: the leader constantly losing ground and no other player (like Sony Entertainment Television, Zee TV) gaining. TAM Media Research’s figures for the year 2004 put STAR Plus and shows like ‘Kyunki…’ and ‘Kahaani…’ in the downward mode. Has fatigue finally set in general entertainment?
If various genres on Indian television are compared, Hindi mass entertainment is seen in some trouble. The weekly average TVRs shows that while 2003 meant a steady graph, 2004 gives the category a 21.42 per cent fall. A closer look shows that it is the leader’s loss, which has affected this decline.
In 2004, STAR primetime alone registered a 22.9 per cent drop. The channel’s driver shows have gone down. For instance, where in 2002, Kyunki gave the channel half yearly average TRP of 11.34 and 11.69, in 2003 it comes down to 11.68 and 10.9. In 2004 these numbers (until week 43) further dipped to 8.9 and 8.68. Similarly, in 2004 Kahaani has dropped from 10.2o in the first half to 8.44.
The bottomline is STAR has a cause of concern. STAR India’s COO, Sameer Nair, however, doesn’t express it. Says he, “This cannot be construed as decline. Ratings fluctuate and that is what’s happening. We still have television’s top properties and they are delivering.”
For Nair, the market is maturing, “Post KBC and initial Kyunki and Kahaani numbers, we had an extreme and unreal dominance. Within our company too, we are an amazing example. This isn’t usual in a competitive market. Even now, the key is to have maximum channel share and we are far ahead of all others.”
He explains that with market expansion and growth in TV households, new channels and new eyeballs are coming in. This means fragmentation and the current scene reflects that. When pointed that the overall viewership pie hasn’t really increased, Nair points, “TAM sample hasn’t increased. There are millions of television sets being sold. Surely they can’t all be replacement.”
An aspect in STAR’s favour is that for four years, it has dominated the Indian television scene in totality. Even if simple market dynamics are applied, any new entrant eats away at the leader’s share and that is what has, perhaps, happened with STAR so far. Despite the dropping ratings, the channel has hiked ad rates.
Sharing more on this, Nair says, “We are a dominant player with limited inventory. Our rates reflect the simple demand-supply equation in the market.”
Where he is convinced that the network itself is well poised with the addition of StarOne, media experts have a different opinion on the hike. “It has to make CPRP sense, which won’t happen in a case of declining ratings,” says Vikram Sakhuja, Managing Director, MindShare, “Having said that, unilaterally, the market is about negotiations. No price increase really pans out.”
A similar sentiment is echoed by Nandini Dias, Vice President, Lodestar, “I am very skeptical about the hike. Channels in the general entertainment space itself are increasing.”
“A leading player already commands a premium, which has to be justified,” states Mallikarjundas, Media Director, Starcom, “In the current scene, I wouldn’t pay a hike.”
The industry sure isn’t excited with increasing rates and dropping numbers. What is the reason behind this fall? Has fatigue set in mass entertainment? “Not mass entertainment but the current kind of programming,” responds Sakhuja, “StarOne could make up for Plus’ loss. There is a need for channels to reinvent and induce freshness on the scene. That component is missing.”
Adding another point, Mallikarjundas says, “Whatever happens in one show, happens across the board, leaps, face changing, marital rapes, why wouldn’t people get bored? Fatigue has set in and the moot point is that channels should get their act together.”
“People are becoming selective about what they watch. With more choices, everyone has to fight harder and content becomes more important than ever. StarOne and Utsav show that the network isn’t banking on any one channel anymore,” states Dias.
So, is general entertainment going out of fashion? Definitely not but people are looking out for something fresh now. Whether it is declining numbers or plain foresight that led STAR India to launch One cannot be deciphered yet but will the channel be able to provide the freshness that would attract Indian audience, we would soon find out.
(TAM Media Research’s ratings are calculated on the target CS 4+ for six metros)