GEC ratings’ war reaches new ‘lows’

Star Plus and Colors have engaged in an interesting battle. The two channels are experimenting significantly with their inventories to corner any available rating point. Colors was bold and even did this in one week’s prime time; Star Plus, on the other hand, has been dropping inventories in weekend non-prime time for past few weeks now.

e4m by Noor Fathima Warsia
Updated: Mar 16, 2009 9:01 AM
GEC ratings’ war reaches new ‘lows’

The Hindi general entertainment genre is in the midst of one of its most interesting battles. The eight-month old Colors is fighting tooth and nail with Star Plus, which has been the genre leader for almost eight years now, to occupy the top slot. Star Plus is fighting right back and the steps include not only a host of new shows, but some smart scheduling as well.

STAR officials had pointed out in week 9 about the drop in inventories in Colors’ primetime shows that allowed it to garner 304 GRPS. The tactic appears to be a favourite tool for both the players. Even as STAR officials had denied this last week, Star Plus, too, has been dropping inventories, though not in its primetime but in the non-prime hours, of the weekends, that is Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays. In some weeks, the channel has dropped inventories in all three days of the week. (See chart below)

In the current state, Colors has 22 hours of original programming only, while Star Plus has over 37 hours of original content. Colors has managed to add to its overall GRPs from repeat programming of its shows like ‘Balika Vadhu’. Star Plus, too, has now begun a 7.00 pm repeat of its top show ‘Bidayi’, making it one of the most repeated shows on the channel.

The other favourite between the two channels is airing movies with no breaks in most cases, and airing events. Where Star Plus had aired 41 movies and events in the last four weeks, Colors had aired 34. Interestingly on February 22, 2009, Star Plus had five no-break movies, including ‘Krrish’, which was aired in the 5.10 pm slot on the channel.

The two channels also like increasing the episode duration of their top shows in critical weeks to garner more eyeballs. In week 9, when just one rating point separated Star Plus and Colors, the latter had a one-hour special of ‘Balika Vadhu’, while both ‘Ye Rishta’ and ‘Bidayi’, too, were longer than the usual half hour duration.

It is the big picture, stupid

At the end of the day, the Indian viewer is much happier today, thanks to the enhanced competition between the two top seeds of Hindi GECs. Media observers, however, have mixed views on this competitive behaviour of the two channels. While some believe that the channels are taking the overall GRP benchmark a bit too seriously, and hence acting “silly”, others think that this is “healthy competition” and would have a positive impact on Indian broadcasting per se.

Sandip Tarkas, President, Consumer Strategy, Future Group, is of the opinion that both the channels are being “stupid”. He noted, “Such tactics are not really new. At one point, when Sony and Zee were competing for the top spot, Sony would air these long events to garner more ratings. It is just that now we are seeing a whole new scale of this. But the very fight for overall channel GRPs is questionable. No advertiser can afford to be on a channel all day, and one is just interested in seeing the performance of where their spot is. How many programmes you have in the top 50 is more important than seeing how many GRPs you have. GRPs for channels are like scams for agencies.”

A point seconded by Madison Media’s Group CEO Punitha Arumugam. She said, “I don’t remember who started channel GRPs as the benchmark, but it definitely is not the best way of gauging a channel’s performance. It didn’t matter how well or badly a channel was doing at an overall level as long as the properties the client is on were giving the right ratings at the right cost.”

However, the tactics have their merits in the longer run. Prasanth Kumar, Managing Partner, CTG, GroupM, explained, “Commercial time is revenue, and rating is what gets you the advertisers. Hence, any effort to get in more ratings will eventually get you the advertisers at good rates and that is what the end goal of any channel is. These unusual tactics from both the channels reiterate the competition in the space, and as far as I am concerned, this is good for the viewer and the advertiser.”

A Perception War

Tarkas pointed out that the channels were now fighting a perception war. He explained, “Colors has already created the perception that it can overtake Star and that does make a difference. What these channels are doing right now for accumulating GRPs may not help them in an immediate way, but in the longer run, they can up their rates, and this applies more to Colors since that is the challenger brand.”

Star Plus and Colors would keep on doing the simple things in addition to the fundamental ones in quest for the overall top slot. Otherwise Colors is already beating the genre leader in various slots and in primetime. However, Colors is soon to increase the number of its original programming hours and how that helps the channel is still a ‘wait and watch’. It is not necessary that a new show would rate as good as a repeat in all cases. Colors is also planning to go pay in April, and that too would impact the channel’s numbers to some extent.

That said, for all the allegations made at Colors, it truly has made the GEC battle colourful.

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