The second general entertainment channel race had begun full-fledged not so long ago. STAR One, given STAR’s absolute dominance, was the first off the mark in 2004. This was followed by Multi Screen Media (then Sony Entertainment Television) buying brand name SAB from Shri Adhikari Brothers as their second general entertainment channel in 2005.
In 2007, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd embarked on its flanking strategy when it launched Zee Next. The channel, however, did not open well, and ZEEL decided to shelve its plans. And earlier this year, the 9X acquisition plans was on similar thought process.
Viacom18, again a lead player in the genre, given the success of its two-year old general entertainment channel Colors, has not even begun playing the second GEC game yet.
The second GEC game is not a simple one – for starters, it requires a strong and successful flagship channel. Sony Entertainment Television, the flagship channel of Multi Screen Media, ensured that in the last year, it stayed on the No. 4 spot. At the same time, there have been many weeks in the past when the No. 5 position is taken by SAB. In the last couple of years, Multi Screen Media has managed to play the second GEC game well.
As STAR One dropped, and SAB picked...
Most second GECs like STAR One and SAB have got added to the Tier II channels on television. TAM Media Research number shows that for the C&S 4+ in the Hindi speaking markets, SAB has seen numbers ranging from 73 GRPs to 104 GRPs. In comparison, STAR One has seen weeks of 34 GRPs (week 19, 2010) to average of 50 GRPs. In the last three weeks (weeks 28, 29, 30), the channel has got more than 60 GRPs – though grown from previous weeks, the channel is still a considerable distance away from SAB.
The period had also seen a rise and rise in STAR Plus, taking the channel not just to its No. 1 position, but creating a significant gap from the No. 2 channel – Colors. Had the focus on STAR Plus taken away from STAR One? In an earlier conversation with exchange4media, Uday Shankar, CEO, STAR India, had said, “I don’t think STAR One was hit by the focus on STAR Plus - there was a management lapse in STAR One.”
He explained, “By that I mean, it was an oversight on my part. We did not drive STAR One structurally, and the channel was seeing its own people changes. I took my eyes off at that time. The creative development of the channel suffered for a few months, but now we have brought the focus back. Nikhil Mirchandani has been brought in to head the channel, and Priya Mishra is heading content. This year, we have put adequate focus on STAR One. You are already seeing changes, and the ratings of STAR One has improved in the last few weeks. Plus, we have a fairly exciting calendar for the channel.”
Meanwhile, SAB has managed to get itself in a place where it is not just fighting with Imagine TV to be on the No. 5 position, but can be compared with its own elder sibling Sony. Sony itself has moved between 140 GRPs and 160 GRPs in the last few months.
Speaking on the subject, Sudha Natrajan, COO, Lintas Media Group, said, “STAR One struggled in the beginning to find their positioning, and it did well when they cracked it. I feel that the pressure STAR Plus came under in the past 2-3 years is what caused the slight loss of focus on STAR One. The current performance of STAR Plus has been stupendous. It took them a bit of time, but when they did it, it was really significant. But this will still not make up for the lack of performance of a second channel – the demand is so high in the market that any network would greatly benefit from having a second performing channel.”
The Genre that Worked
Some media observers say that SAB cannot even be clubbed as a flanking channel. Natrajan said, “I would not consider SAB as a flanking channel - it belongs to a different genre, has differentiated audiences, and content. They have also managed to get the cost of production versus revenue versus GRP equation well. Kudos to them – the channel has certainly helped the group in more ways than one.”
T Gangadhar, Managing Director, MEC India, explained, “The whole notion of beginning a second channel is when you want to bring in a differentiated set of audiences. STAR One did it by speaking to a different demography. But the youth proposition did not work for them. Do not forget that SAB, too, had taken the youth route amongst the many avatars that the channel was donning at one point, and they failed miserably when they had gone down that route. The comedy genre has worked for them, and then again, it is fair to credit the genre for it, given its universal appeal. In fact, in the days when STAR One had done well, it was on the back of some comedy shows and reality shows.”
A strong second channel proposition is important, and SAB has helped MSM on that front. Natrajan explained on this, “There is a boom in the television industry, and this year will see huge growths. There is already a huge stress on inventory, and in this scenario, in order to maximise the potential that the market is offering, developing a second channel is important, simply to not miss the boat. There have been media houses that have cracked the flanking channel strategy quite well. STAR One did well at a point in time, but they lost steam and Zee has never managed to crack it.”
Gangadhar added, “From a network point of view, it would help immensely to have a second strong channel in the network, and to not rely on one. SAB really helps MSM on that. With the kind of numbers they are getting, they would compete with any lesser performing GEC for that matter.”
Has MSM been successful in growing Sony Entertainment Television? That question can be answered in any way depending on what aspect was under observation, but MSM has clearly been able to crack the second channel strategy better than its competition.