Last year, Star Plus went out of the box and opened up early primetime 5.30 pm slot for its then latest show 'Mere Angne Mein,’ a one-hour daily produced by Sphere Origins. Since March 2016, the show changed to half-an-hour format paving way for the new show ‘Jana Na Dil Se Door’ at 5.30 pm slot.
The channel’s reason for early prime time is its TG which is predominantly housewives. The show ‘Jaana Na Dil Se Door’ based out of Ajmer, has a rural connect to it. Star Plus seems to believe this slot works in favour of those stay-at-home female viewers who prefer switching on their television right after their afternoon nap. There’s no reason why the channel wouldn’t want to cash in on this category for more viewership. It seems to be working for them as the show ‘Mere Angne Mein’ will complete a year on June 15 and has claimed to see a decent growth in the viewership in the past 11 months.
Meanwhile, Colors recently did a major reshuffle in their programming by bringing in a new show ‘Shakti’ in the 8 pm primetime slot on May 30, taking the limelight from ‘Balika Vadhu’, one of the channel’s longest running fiction show which in turn was moved to 6.30 pm. The latter is speculated to not bring constructive ratings according to media reports. ‘Ishq Ka Rang Safed,’ the show running in its place moved up to the 6 pm slot which is newly opened by the channel. It’s clearly evident even this channel is experimenting with early prime time.
Zee TV went one step further last year and expanded its weekday prime time offering from 5pm with two shows dubbed from their regional originals airing on Zee Marathi. This year it’s working on strengthening its 6-8 pm prime time slot on weekdays with strong fiction shows with the launch of ‘Vishkanya: Ek Anokhi Prem Kahaani’ in March at 6.30pm. ‘Sarojini’, which aired in the 6.30 pm slot, shifted to 6 pm. What’s interesting is that Zee TV was the first Hindi GEC to taste success in the early primetime band with the launch of ‘Chhoti Bahu’ at then-newly introduced 7.30 pm slot.
Huge demand for early primetime
Late entrant to the club, Sony Entertainment Television expanded its primetime beginning with 7pm onwards in March with a new show ‘Mann Mein Vishwaas Hai.’ The channel’s CEO NP Singh even mentioned earlier that plans are on for expanding it even further. Anup Vishwanathan, Senior Vice President, Marketing - Sony Entertainment Television attributes this to huge demand. “As per viewership figures, there is a huge demand for early primetime. Therefore we decided to cater to this demand by launching ‘Mann Mein Vishwas Hain’ at 7 pm.
Media planners give their take
It’s clear that these channels’ decision to air original content right from 5.30 pm onwards is to capture more eyeballs and attract more additional advertising revenue. Anita Nayyar, CEO, Havas Media Group, India & South Asia agrees, “GECs aims to get more number of hours under the umbrella of prime time for better monetisation. Now the quality and content of the programme is getting interesting with broadcasters putting more effort into advertising to get more viewers.”
Shekhar Banerjee, COO, Madison Media Infinity gives his take, “Clearly, content is the winner when it comes to performance. Star Plus, by introducing original programming at 5.30, has been able to create an early peak getting into their prime time, other channels following the same will only help in expanding the prime-time slot in urban India.”
PM Balakrishna CEO, Allied Media Network, on the other hand feels that this is the only time slot left for broadcasters to bank upon. He explains, “Right now, this seems to be the only way to garner market share. Weekends and weekdays are aggressively packed. Afternoons are another battlefield. There’s hardly any vacancy left. So 5-7pm is the only prime time band left for broadcasters to experiment with new shows and concept. Also this is a way to build up viewership base to step into other prime time bands. That’s how they can push the envelope. Broadcasters can look at it as an investment to see what kind of viewership they can build their prime time on.”
With BARC rolling out rural data for Hindi GECs, it is apparent broadcasters will be focused on catering to the rural market. “In a tier 2 and tier-3 cities, 6-10pm slots work better as people over here sleep early. So this brings in more incremental audience. With BARC rolling out urban and rural data more eyeballs are on the latter. At the end, it’s all about getting consistent traction,” says Nayyar. “With rural numbers picking up, 5-9pm can the new prime time band. Broadcasters might be targeting that demand,” Balakrishna shares his opinion. Banerjee adds, “We are also seeing some early trends in rural market (Hindi belt) lead by FTA channels, consumers are open to watching TV also during afternoon & early morning, the same can be leveraged better.”
Also, regional channels have shown television viewing takes place early in small towns, a learning taken into consideration by the Hindi broadcasters. “In rural markets, regional channels have a good hold on these timeline as per research. Lot of co-viewing is happening. Mothers are watching along with kids. Broadcaster can use this insight to pull viewership from them to main timeline that can bring in additional viewership and finally leadership,” signs off Balakrishna.