The latest TAM week data has good news for Zee TV with the channel on almost equal ground with Star Plus. TAM Media Research shows that for the C&S 4+ in the Hindi speaking markets, where Star Plus had 291 GRPs, Zee TV had 287. Newcomer NDTV Imagine continues on its No. 3 position at 90 GRPs. Sony, SaharaOne and Star One follow with GRPs of 82, 65 and 57, respectively. 9X is at 48 GRPs this week, while Sab is at 31.
Media analysts aren’t too surprised with the situation, stating that the narrowing of the gap between Star Plus and Zee TV had been happening for over two years now, and the game was set to shift to first among equals than a clear leader in the genre. The likes of OMD’s Harish Shriyan are clear that Star Plus is still No. 1. Shriyan said, “Zee TV is really catching up and they are very close to Star Plus now, but Star Plus is still the leader and they have some shows up their sleeves that look good.”
On the other hand, R Gowthaman, MD, MindShare, feels that Star Plus needs to do more soon. He said, “Zee gaining on the ratings score has been happening for a long time, but Star needs to be worried now. If they don’t do anything in terms of content drastically soon, things may not stay in their favour.” Sandip Tarkas, President-Consumer Strategy, Future Group, said, “This was expected. Even if you draw a comparison to mature markets such as the US, you will see that the key networks there keep exchanging the top position.”
The analysts re-assert that the audiences are tuning in to watch programmes and not channels. They also elucidate that in a sense this is leading to interplay of GRPs within the Hindi GEC genre and consequently, newcomers or growth of a channel is not adding to the growth of the genre. Gowthaman said, “At a very fundamental level, the time spent on watching TV has not increased. If you see closer, it is clear that the Hindi GECs’ share remains the same – if an NDTV Imagine is cornering 90 GRPS, it is at the expense of another channel. In the case of NDTV Imagine, it is still early to say from where, but Zee TV has very clearly gained at the cost of Star Plus and Sony TV.”
The experts also explained that Star Plus, which used to garner almost 500 GRPs a couple of years back, and now revolves around 300 GRPs, has not just lost the ratings to other Hindi GECs but also to other genres like sports, movies and kids’ genre, among others. Tarkas elaborated, “Hindi mass channels have traditionally held the highest share in television. As new players come in, in terms of other genres, they take their share from this mass pie. Today, due to media proliferation, we are also seeing a sense of instability in the media environment – the likes of Indian Premier League, cricket controversies, political stunts and so on are attracting the viewer to these other genres.”
Nonetheless, the industry heads believe that the increase in the number of Hindi GECs, as seen in the last few months and with the other channels in the pipeline, is a re-launch of sorts for the genre. Tarkas said, “Eventually, with more action and variety, the space would grow as a whole.” Gowthaman said, “In fact, 3-4 months back I would have said that GEC as a genre is losing share to other genres. However, it has stabilised over the last three months.”
Presenting the broadcaster’s point of view here, Joy Chakraborthy, President-Revenues, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd, said, “Every genre has a viewership cycle when its key properties pick up. Hindi mass channels genre is the only genre that delivers ratings throughout the year, and constantly. This is the safest genre for any advertiser. Also, don’t forget that even from a measurement point of view, there are challenges. You don’t have numbers for some of the key towns. A rating of 1 today brings more viewers than it did a year back. When all this is seen, GEC would still be one of most cost effective genres available on television.”
“Also, if everyone says that the GECs genre is stagnated and we are seeing an increase in the television universe with new genres coming in, isn’t it really an indirect indication that GEC has increased. The bottomline is that for any media plan, the Hindi GEC genre is the backbone. This business is all about repeat orders, and at least from Zee’s point of view, not a single client in the last two years has taken Zee TV and then taken it out of their plans,” pointed out Chakraborthy.
For many industry watchers there is no denying that fragmentation has increased further in the Hindi GEC with new players coming in. After the cable and satellite revolution, this genre had first seen Zee TV as the kingpin, then Sony TV came in and even before it had caught up with Zee TV, Star Plus got a genie out of the bottle and ruled the genre for seven years. Even in international television markets, there is no comparison to Star Plus’ feat in India. Now it appears that the battle between Star Plus and Zee TV would be a very close one. What would the likes of NDTV Imagine garner eventually is as good as anyone’s guess, even as the channel has opened to positive numbers. What is worth watching now is whether the new players would help grow the genre further in any form.