English GECs Part 1 – Finally getting the game right

English GECs, the dormant sector is waking up to claim its share of the TV pie. Part 1 of the indepth analysis of the English entertainment genre takes a look at the hierarchy, the key players and the strategies to counter the cricket punch...

e4m by Fatema Rajkotwala
Updated: Apr 20, 2011 8:58 AM
English GECs Part 1 – Finally getting the game right

If you are an English entertainment viewer with your loyalty not sworn to cricket and your eyes are hungrily surfing for other choices on entertainment on television, chances are that you may be spoilt for choice. Basic curiosity may cause you to halt at the wide range of new shows launched in your favourite English channels, new seasons, near live international telecasts, subtitles and yes, even whole new channels to pick from.

The spotlight continues to be stolen by sports channels that are armed with the current Indian Premier League, after the euphoria over the ICC World Cup subsided. 2011 has witnessed a hawk eyed focus by channels on programming and a steady attempt to capture, add and retain audiences.

The Hierarchy

As per data from TAM Media Research in C&S 15 + one million markets, the clear leader by a wide margin continues to be male-centric action and adventure channel, AXN. The channel’s programming strategy comprises four distinctive types of programming – mass acquisition of latest seasons of international formats divided into action-adventure reality shows such as ‘Fear Factor’, ‘Wipeout’, ‘Minute to Win’; global hit dramas such as ‘CSI’, ‘24’, ‘House’; or dance shows such as ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and ‘Got To Dance’. The 9-10 pm band on AXN is focused on reality shows, while the 10-11 pm band is focused on serialised telecoms. In terms of ad spot rates, too, the channel is expecting some growth this year.

Speaking on show launches for the year 2011, Rohit Bhandari, Senior Vice President, AXN and Animax (India), had informed exchange4media, “For the current fiscal, these two launches (‘India’s Minute to Win It’ and ‘Got to Dance’) will be our new additions. Apart from this, latest seasons of currently airing shows will continue.”

Holding the next leading spot is the English GEC from the News Corporation stable, Star World. The third spot is at the moment, being contested upon by channels Zee Cafe and CBS Prime from the Reliance family of channels.

BIG CBS’ three-week old channel, Love has already added to the genre and is quick on the uptake with its audiences, defined as ‘urban contemporary couples’. Aparnaa Pande, General Manager, BIG CBS Networks, said, “We have only completed a couple of weeks and the feedback is great and ratings have come in to show it. We have specials planned on weekends and new properties such as ‘Kid Nation’, for the holiday season and ‘Kate and William’ on the channel. Spark is scheduled to be launched soon; watch out for some edgy shows!”

BBC Worldwide’s BBC Entertainment, which was launched in the digital space in 2007, joined the game with a fresh re-launch in January 2011. Commenting on the challenges in the English GEC genre, Deepak Shourie, Director, BBCW Channels, South Asia, said, “India is a complex market - many languages, many television platforms and a very large TV viewing audience. The English entertainment market in particular is 72 million strong. This is a great opportunity for English channels such as BBC Entertainment to explore and expand into. Our biggest advantage is that we are a multi-genre channel and bring the best of British television on BBC Entertainment.”

The One Ups

AXN, the genre leader and a seasoned player, is backed by powerhouse Sony pictures Entertainment. Star World acquires its content on the basis of long term operational deals with FOX, Disney, Sony and other studios. Zee Café also bring in years of expertise with affiliations with top studios.

RBNL’s current television portfolio includes two English GECs through the JV with American broadcaster, CBS Studios International. A JV with European broadcaster, RTL will see the launch of two more English channels in the reality action themed domain. This venture will give RBNL the content boost from FreMantle’s side of expertise, along with production and distribution of RTL owned and controlled formats.

RBNL also leverages its TV properties through various Reliance platforms such as mobile, online and gaming, synergies within RBNL’s infrastructure and parent company, Reliance Group.

The Cricket Punch

It is hard to ignore the impact that the cricketing season has had on the viewing appointments for the genre. In an exchange4media analysis, as per data from TAM Media Research for C&S 1 Million plus markets from the period of October 2010 up to April 2011 shows a definite rise, peak and fall since the World Cup begun.

As the graph depicts, Week 8 onwards (Feb 19, 2011, the week the World Cup began), the genre share dropped from a peak of .03 TVR per cent settling at a 0.23 TVR in Week 1, 2011 (April 2 to 9). Considering that the IPL promises to keep male and female audiences engaged for another month, it will be interesting to see how the genre will fare.

Bedi argued that the cricketing events on television were not entirely eating into the viewership, “It is not fair to say that the genre has taken a beating and audiences have come in either at prime time or not. We have received feedback that a particular show was appreciated or the weekend block is where people manage to follow their shows. So, cricket is a huge phenomenon, we are happy that we won the Cup.”

I Perceive You

On the upside, the bar has been raised and the genre has grown. Individual channels shares are not yet a big number to boast about but the English GEC genre climbed a new peak in February 2011, claiming up to 0.3 TVR per cent of the complete television viewing pie. This is a new highpoint in the last six months where the genre claimed about 0.18 TVR per cent in mid October 2010.

Listing out the meters on which the success of the channel may be gauged, Shourie said, “Advertiser success is the biggest parameter. We have over 35 prime brands on board. We also receive consistent press coverage in all top media, the latest with Sherlock and Royal Wedding. Our Facebook fanpage has over 5500 fans in two months. Our audience profile includes nearly 70 per cent under the age of 35 years and 52 per cent of our audience is SEC A&B. The right profile and a young audience are enjoying our content, and there has been great buzz on the channel.”

Bedi said, “We have the biggest shows and providing multiple seasons is a channel’s biggest strength to bring in audiences. The numbers are too small to be looked at from that perspective; this is a perception business.

On a similar vein, Pande said, “It is largely a perception game. Compared to Hindi GEC, which is meant for a mass audience, we lean towards a select few, the targeted audience.”

The concluding part of the English GECs report will appear on April 21, 2011.

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