Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The new No.1 in Hindi Entertainment Channels in India – Fine print behind the hoopla!

“Colors ends STAR Plus’ eight year reign” said one of the popular media & advertising trade websites as a news flash….”Colors ousts Star Plus to be No.1 “ said another website…It has finally happened..Hindi Entertainment finally has a new leader ..The writing was on the wall since quite a few weeks and it finally happened during the week when Colors turned into a pay channel. GRPs wars between Star Plus & Colors have been often discussed in the Media websites. Star Plus has tried quite a few tactical moves to sustain their leadership position during the last few weeks. From cutting down on ad inventory, reducing the number of breaks, increasing the no. of movies aired during weekends, stretching of Bidayi (their then top rated serial) into a one hour show for few weeks & scheduling their daily shows from Mondays to Fridays instead of prior scheduling of Mondays to Thursdays. These changes are ofcourse in addition to their biggest change in their strategy of doing away with the plethora of K serials & replacing them with new serials. Even Colors has been trying quite a few tricks (dropping ad inventory & no. of breaks, running 2 or more big blockbusters in the same week, etc) to topple Star Plus & it was almost becoming a cat & mouse game between the 2 giants of Hindi Television. Few weeks back Colors almost reached the level of Star Plus..the difference between the two was hardly 1 or 2 GRPs. When it finally happened today, it was certainly not expected atleast for the onlookers like me, not sure if teams at Colors & Star Plus expected it to happen this week.
This news has certainly created a lot of furor among the media industry and will certainly be attracting a fair bit of press attention for a while. Their holding company being a listed company they are most likely to encash on this opportunity to get fair bit of mileage out of this achievement – both among its investors & business partners.
And why not . The team at Colors has certainly pulled up an impossible task of reaching the No.1 slot in less than 1 year of their launch. What is even more amazing is the fact that they have achieved this feat with far lesser number of original programming content compared to Star Plus & Zee TV, making the potential upside for the channel even higher from here on. They have cracked all the aspects of what it takes to make a TV channel in India successful.
• Distribution – Colors seemed to have its distribution since the first few weeks of its launch. Evident from weekly Reach of Colors which has been steadily growing & it had been clocking higher weekly reach than Star Plus since last few weeks
• Programming – Colors has literally changed the face of Hindi Television. Total shift from focusing on Saas Bahus to Girl child based programming. Who would have predicted such a paradigm shift in the programming on Hindi television? This shift has also compelled its competition to completely revamp their programming strategy.
• Fast moving programming strategy – Colors smartly used Khatron Ke Khiladi (Fear Factor with Akshay Kumar) during their launch phase. They further used Bigg Boss2 & other reality shows to their advantage to tactically move up their weekly GRPs. Colors has been extremely nimble footed in changing their programming strategy as they have been removing the non performers from its programming line up and adding fresh content wherever necessary.
• Marketing – Colors launch was one of the biggest marketing campaigns we have seen for a Media brand. They have been consistently aggressive in marketing all their new launches since then across media. Even for running promos on their own network, Colors came up with quite a few innovative tactics like promoting hourly slots & promos showcasing entire prime time line up of the channel.
• Ad sales – not much can be said about how successful they have been with this aspect since the rates at which they sell is not in public domain. But they certainly have a hot selling product with them & most of the big advertisers have advertised with them so far. As per their latest investor release they did mention hitting “Revenue Run-Rate Of Rs 300 Cr+ Per Annum”. Whether that is good or bad, I will leave it to your discretion.
However, once the dust is settled after this initial excitement about us having a new no.1 in Hindi Entertainment space, and once we read the fine print of these big headlines about the “end of an era”, one surely wonders what this ado all about? It is only one week viewership data we are talking about and we are calling it the end of an era! Especially when this so called toppling of the leader has taken place more because sudden decrease in Star Plus GRPs this week rather than increase of Colors during this week. This game of eye balls are not decided on the basis of data of such a short span of time. Television is not Print where if you are toppled from your leadership position, you will get a chance to bounce back only after another 6 months or 1 years when the next set of research numbers are released. We in the Television industry are used to over analyzing the viewership data that too on a daily or a weekly basis and as a result we sometimes tend to forget the bigger picture. The real test in Indian Television industry (like in life) is not to reach to the top but to remain on the top. Such sweeping statements like ending of Star Plus’ reign as a headline of a trade website based on one week’s data are not being fair to the channel. People who don’t belong to this industry are certainly not going to understand the fine print behind the story and are going believe it plainly on a its face value.
It is far too early to say anything. This is surely a symbolic & psychological victory for Colors. But that doesn’t count anything on a balance sheet of a company. Only the coming weeks will tell us if Colors has decisively overtaken Star Plus or not. This game is definitely not over. The game has only begun. Expect Star Plus to bounce back & bounce back real hard. Star Plus has already implemented quite a few changes in programming. They have take sponsorship of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) & they have roped in SRK for some on air initiatives to promote their shows. They surely will be coming with a few more changes in their programming very soon to counter the threat of Colors. They very well know that all they require is 1 or 2 decently big hits in their current prime time line up & they will be back in the top slot. Who knows better than the team at Star Plus at being No.1 slot. After all they have been there for about 8 years now!
Keep watching this space for more action as the Indian Television space gets hotter!

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