Binge-watching fever spreads on English GECs

Viewers of English GECs in India have taken a shine to binge-watching, following their western counterparts. Can channels attract more viewership by leveraging this phenomenon

e4m by Collin Furtado
Updated: Aug 5, 2014 8:09 AM
Binge-watching fever spreads on English GECs

Missed an episode of your favorite serial? There are chances that you now would get to catch it over the weekend. With a loss in viewership due to time-strapped weekday schedules of viewers, television channels have leveraged this as an opportunity to capture their audiences by recapping the week’s episodes together over the weekend. Viewers, especially those of English GECs, have taken to binge watching by storm. Many viewers prefer sitting at home, glued to the TV on a weekend and catch up on their favourite series.

Playing to internet habits

Binge-watching came about through the internet and the downloading of series to watch at one go. Though TV channels may not be able to counter piracy in a big way, they certainly have now found a way of keeping viewers coming back to their screens. Picking up on the viewer habit of watching a particular series at one go they decided to run series marathons. Many English GEC channels now run series marathons on weekend recapping all the episodes of the week in a two or three-hour time span.

Speaking about this Kevin Vaz, Business Head, English Channels, STAR India said, “We have been doing these marathons across many shows on the weekend. Whether it is Prison Break, Homeland, Two and Half Men, we keep on doing this. We do it on a roll because all these shows in the West have it once a week. Then if they don’t catch it on the weekdays they can get a chance to watch them on the weekend. They can watch the show for two or three hours and enjoy.”

Similarly, Saurabh Yagnik, EVP & Business Head English Channels (Sony PIX and AXN), Sony Entertainment Television (SET) said, “We have run Sherlock as well as Chuck marathons a number of times. We do this on special days such as Valentine’s Day and over the weekends as well. If it is a long running show then running the marathon becomes tough. But definitely shows like Extant will come back as omnibuses and marathons on the channel going forward.”

Another English GEC channel Zee Café too runs series marathons of popular sitcoms such as ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Two and a Half Men’. According to Anurag Bedi, EVP & Business Head, Zee Café, “Sitcoms work better for ‘binge-watching’ as you would want to showcase content that people can tune into without really knowing the background of the show. In case of dramas if all episodes are not shown in one day, it translates into a break in continuity; hence marathons for the same are best avoided.”

According to Nikhil Gandhi, VP Revenues, Disney India Media Networks, binge-watching depends on what properties are presented to viewers. “Binge-watching is a western phenomenon to begin with. Secondly, binge watching happens over the weekends largely, which is a trend the GECs have caught on to. It depends a lot on the kind of show you bring to the table. It also depends on the mind space of the viewer.”

Brand attraction

With viewership come brands that would like to be part of such opportunities. Channels have learnt to make additional revenue through repeats.

According to Mayank Shah, Dy. Marketing Manager, Parle Products, “ Let’s say there is a serial airing at 9pm in the night and then you have that probably repeated twice or thrice the next day or at times the entire strip. If it is a five day a week serial Monday to Friday, it gets repeated on Saturday. Brands advertise and get additional revenue for the channel for non-prime time viewing.”

Chandru Kalro, COO, TTK Prestige said, “If the program has some loyal viewership you always get to see some more of it. Other than the prime time, brands would want to advertise on such spots”. To better explain how binge programming can work to a channel’s advantage he gives the example of the new show on Sony, Yudh. “If you take Yudh for example which is in the longest time band, there is no way for anyone to catch up with that serial if one has missed it. By running a series marathon, they would probably get more viewership in the second and third week. At least it would have got more people on board because now whoever missed out on the first week will never come on board in the second week. I think it was a very bad idea to not have any repeats and not even help people catch up during the weekend,” said Kalro. 

Channels also use repeat shows as a way to increase the viewership of a particular show, which in turn attracts brand sponsorship. This naturally boosts the overall ratings of a particular show and increase the attraction of brands to it. “Also, not to forget channels don’t pay for this as it is not fresh content, so they don’t incur any cost on it. So it is beneficial for channels, plus they get better viewership there. It is a trend that is catching up definitely,” said Shah.

However, Tarun Nigam, Director, PM Media Solutions says that though binge watching is catching in India among the age band of 15-24 years, this does not mean that TV channels running marathons on weekends will necessarily garner higher viewership than weekday viewership.  

Giving a brand prospective on binge watching Shah added, “Brands are primarily interested in viewership, so if you are giving me better viewership in that particular slot then I would be there. No channel will give you 100% prime time, they may, but at an exorbitant cost. They also have to sell non-prime time (slots), how interesting is your non-prime time or afternoon slot. You cannot have so much of fresh content because of the programming costs, so they package it this way and sell it to clients. Clients will be ready to look at it because they see more value there. For a marginally higher cost, they get an afternoon slot with higher viewership. So it is all about viewership, whether the channel puts new content or some other content as long as it is giving me good viewership I will go there, otherwise I won’t.”  

Binge-watching brings viewership and that brings in brands, which is finally what matters for a TV channel. So as long there is loyalty and content that drives audiences to catch up on their favourite shows over the weekends, weekend series marathon properties are going to continue to grow on English GECs.  

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