Indian television's afternoon slot is a growing one and looking at ratings a speedily growing one at that. Afternoon properties like Bhabhi and Kumkum generate TRPs that are better than a few primetime programmes. The repeats of Astitva and Tum Bin... in afternoon gross almost the same ratings as primetime. With afternoon slot adding the advantage of cost efficiency, it is worth finding how the industry sees it changing.
To comprehend the development nature of afternoon slot, let's begin with a ratings comparison between the two prominent time bands - afternoon and primetime. The TAM Media research ratings for the target C&S, Females 15+ ABC for the Hindi speaking markets in period December 17, 2004 to January 17, 2004 throws encouraging numbers for afternoon programmes.
On Star Plus, Bhabhi grosses an average TRP of 11.16 points for this period. Not far behind Kumkum makes a 11.01 average. Programmes like Shagun and Kabhi Aaye na Judaai give an average of 6.12 and 5.68 respectively. If these were compared with a few primetime programmes, the numbers are as good or better. Even on other channels like Zee, serials like Astitva get an average TRP of 1.35 in the afternoon as compared to the 2.2 in primetime and Tum Bin... grosses a 1.36 in afternoon which is almost as good as its evening 1.8.
With these ratings, the consolidation of the afternoon slot is evident. So how do planners view the afternoon slot in comparison to primetime? C R Mallikarjundas, Media Director, Starcom, replies, "The afternoon slot has undoubtedly evolved. Afternoon programming is critical and as numbers increase, they do give CPRP efficiencies and deliveries in your final plan."
Adds Prasanth Kumar, Associate Media Director, Universal, "If the client is looking at the core female target, this daypart if not more, is as important as primetime. The afternoon slots have managed a steady audience and to an extent generate new audiences as well."
Given these benefits, can a brand rely on afternoon alone? Mallikarjundas replies, "On a general note where impact that is reach and numbers matter, at this stage, afternoon alone is not advisable. Market and target wise, when you look at smaller stratas or specific towns say in northern areas, factors varying from viewer lifestyle to electricity make a difference. So whether you look at the data or factors out of the data, a mix of the two is important."
Evidently, there still is a difference in treatment. And the difference is not just in the two bands but also in the programmes in the afternoon band itself. Kumar explains, "Between special afternoon programming like Bhabhi, Kumkum or Pia Ka Ghar and repeats the preference is towards the former."
If that is the case is it possible that it there were no repeat telecasts, the current numbers that repeats generate would move to primetime? "Not likely," states Deepak Segal, Sr. VP, Content and Communication, Star India, "Repeats for us is like catch up viewing. These programmes have such huge followings that audience would raise a hue and cry if these repeats are taken off."
Sunil Khanna, President, Zee TV agrees, "Given the single TV household situation, chances are that most women watch TV in the afternoon. If that is taken off, they just might get off the show itself. So it can work both ways, but it definitely would be taking a chance on the viewers."
However, for most shows aren't repeats showing a dip? "Repeats will be repeats and given the choices that viewers have for original slots in those hours, the TRPs would be affected in that manner. But there has to be a mix of both," elucidates Segal, "Original is for building up the slot and to give it its own identity but you need repeats."
Kumar further explains, "If anything, repeats will help generate viewership. Also you cannot determine the component of new audiences in repeats. So you don't know how TRPs would increase if repeats are taken off. And right now holding on to a viewer is crucial. Channels won't take any chance that would allow viewers to even sample other channels."
Giving a different perspective, says Mallikarjundas, "There is no investment on repeats. So whatever the channel makes on that is a bonus. But having said that and seeing the development in current afternoon slots, there is no reason why one should not expect this time band to develop to the extent that there is complete original programming here as well."
He adds, "Viewership pattern for 3.30 pm slot might not be there currently but isn't that the same thing that was once said for 10.30 pm. And hasn't primetime today gone up to 12.00 am? This only proves that viewership pattern and programming are both evolving. So anything can be expected."
The stretched evening primetime and the success of the afternoon serials signifies that programming can affect viewership pattern. Given the established afternoon viewerbase, perhaps it is about time that afternoon programming also broke a few rules.