Opportunity in Sunday morning slot, say media analysts

MUMBAI: Somehow, cable and satellite channels have been unable to create a programming mix that brings in audiences to the Sunday morning slot. This is in sharp contrast to the scenario that existed years ago when Ramanand Sagar's Ramayana and BR Chopra's Mahabharata ruled the roost.

Now it looks as if the mass entertainment channels are seriously looking to introduce programming that they hope will lure "disloyal" Sunday audiences.

Madison Media (West) COO Punitha Arumugam states: "Satellite channels have not been able to build Sunday morning into a high viewership band - even the Big B Amitabh Bachchan's Junior KBC did not do the trick."

Madison Media has conducted a study to compare the "Sunday morning" and "weekday primetime" performance and its study reveals the following:

a) Sunday Morning has lower than normal TV viewership

- An average one hour band on Sunday morning reaches only 50 per cent of the TV audience vs the 80 per cent reached during an average one hour primetime band on a weekday.

b) No channel has managed to dominate Sunday morning through programming 

- The channel shares of the top 3 channels in the Hindi Belt are : 

* During prime time on weekdays : Star Plus +Sony + Zee = 60 per cent

* During Sunday morning : Star Plus + Sony + Zee =30 per cent only!

c) Sunday morning viewers are a disloyal audience

- Unlike weekday primetime where there is high loyalty and stability in viewership, Sunday morning viewers are "unstable and not loyal" audience.

Arumugam sums it up by saying "Sunday mornings do have potential and can be a revenue goldmine for channels which can come with the right programming."

Carat Media Services Srikanth Raman also echoes the same views: "Abroad, the weekend starts on a Friday whereas India still is a 6-day working week. Most of the major networks abroad target Saturday mornings whereas in India, channels are copying one another in terms of mythos and kids programmes. Sunday morning is simply not rocking!"

"Sometime back, Doordarshan had perfected the right approach in terms of family sitcoms, comedies and soap operas. What the C&S channels need to do is to come up with fresh ideas," adds Raman.

The C&S channels are waking up to the potential here it looks like.

There is Star's Hai Na Bolo Bolo, a musical game show launched on Sunday, 19 January in the 11 am slot. Prior to that, Star has Foxkids at 9 am and Gurukul Ancient Wisdom of India at 10 am. Kaalki, the first special effects-based show from the Balaji stable, might finally see the light of day after the World Cup. The show was initially scheduled to be launched in November 2002. Certain financial analysts claim that this serial will be shown in the Sunday morning slot.

Star India COO Sameer Nair also talks about the need to try out new ideas for each and every slot: "We keep trying new ideas but there is no clear-cut formula for success. Successful programming strategies are like entertainment brands - illusory, elusive, magical and superior. Successful entertainment products evolve daily and have a life and personality of their own. Once created, they feed on themselves, constantly reinvent themselves and transcend their basic achievements. ."

Zee TV, the channel which has always broken norms (for instance its Sunday to Wednesday mix for soap operas) is planning beef up the Sunday morning close on the heels of the Sunday evening's Megawin Mahalotto contest in association with E-Cool Gaming Solutions.

Zee plans to do something different by launching a thriller show sometime in March. Actor-director Anant Mahadevan is already working on XYZ,, the new offering to be telecast on Zee. Zee has Neelam Ghar Bid Bid Boom Boom at 9 am; Jai Santoshi Maa at 9:30 am; music show Sare Gama Pa at 10 am; and Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai (classics) at 11am.

Sony TV has Balaji's thriller drama Kya Haadsa Kya Haqeeqat which was launched in November 2002 and is telecast around noon. This is preceded by Honey I Shrunk the Kids; the new format of Bournvita Quiz contest started last year; and mythos such as Jai Ganesha, Mahabharata.

Mahadevan, had this to say about doing a Sunday morning slot thriller for Zee: "The key is to try something different. I am directing a serial XYZ starring Shekhar Suman for Zee. It will be launched either on 2 or 9 March. It is a part of Zee's Sunday programe. Zee's effort to revive the Sunday morning slot is a welcome move."

Zee TV president Apurva Purohit had earlier indicated their stance on the issue when she spoke to the team in the first week of January 2003. "In the year 2002, Zee experimented with various initiatives and increased buzz around the channel's programming. The experiment to shift soaps to the Sunday till mid-week period was revolutionary. At Zee, we ensure that we conduct dipstick studies and determine viewer tastes and preferences. Based on this feedback, we try out new things and change our programming mix."

"There is a need to go beyond the tried-out and tested fare and attempt to change viewing habits on Sunday. The new initiatives such as kids serials with special effects could succeed in breaking the 'mythos' clutter," says Merrill Lynch media analyst Bharat Parekh.

BR Films MD Ravi Chopra feels: "I feel that the mythological genre has been squeezed dry by the multitude of serials that have been aired on DD and the C&S channels. Even today, there is a market for repeats and new extensions of age-old themes. However, they don't create the same frenzy that they used to create in the earlier days."

"Mythos have succeeded in all the possible slots and will continue to do well. I firmly believe that mythological serials will make a big comeback," Chopra adds.

Well, it looks as if producers and progamming teams are trying various approaches to get a fix on the right mix!

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