Asianet-Surya battle for prime time supremacy

MUMBAI: Sun Network's Malayalam channel Surya TV concludes its promos with the entreaty "... in YOUR Surya TV". Recently, its arch rival Asianet introduced a 'provocation punch' in some of its promos. Tit-for-tat, the phrasing goes like, "... in OUR Asianet."

"This shows that the Asianet management and its viewers are not separate entities. This underlines our relationship with our viewers. But we are not going to retain this punch line, respecting the feedback that such a 'stress' is not necessary," says Asianet vice president, programming, Sreekantan Nair.

But the intensity of the competition between the two leading Malayalam channels is hard to ignore. Primetime revamp, show launches, shuffling of schedules...Asianet and Surya TV are attempting anything possible to get an edge over the other.

Surya's programming revamp

Talking about the recent developments, Surya TV played the first shot by launching a daily primetime show Kayamkulam Kochunni in the 9:30 pm slot. Supposedly, the game plan was to counter Asianet's channel driver show Kadamattathu Kathanar of the same slot. The earlier show Aayliyam Kaavu Surya had launched to give competition to Kadamattathu Kathanar but didn't pick up and was taken off abruptly.

Surya went for a major programming reshuffle along with new show launches in the first week of October. The daily comedy show Savari Giri Giri at 10 pm was cut down to a twice-a-week (Saturday & Sunday, 9:30 pm) show. The channel's seven-day comedy serial Ettu Sundarikalum Njanum was shifted to the 10 pm slot from the 9:30 pm slot, to make way for Kayamkulam Kochunni.

Then the channel brought back its music show Music Moments to the primetime band and placed it at the 10:30 pm slot. The channel launched a horror serial Aakashadoot in the Sunday 10 pm slot which was later shifted to the Saturday 9 pm slot to accommodate Savari Giri Giri. For the weekend primetime band, the channel launched a music competition show Padam Namukku Padam for Saturday with anchor-turned-actor Kootickal Jayachandran at the helm. Thus, the field was set for a primetime tussle.

Asianet to launch two primetime soaps in November

Asianet, putting its thinking cap on, has played on the back foot for the 9:30 pm slot. The channel is shifting Kadamattathu Kathanar to the 10 pm slot and is taking off its recently launched daily 10 pm comedy programme Daily Express. But the channel has no intention to surrender its 9:30 pm slot. Asianet is taking on Surya's Kochunni with a new soap family thriller 1,2,3 Saat, which will be launched on 1 November. 1,2,3...Saat directed by AM Nazeer stars veteran Malayalam film actor Rajan P Dev, Suresh Krishna, Shankar and Reshmi Soman. The channel will telecast a curtain raiser of the show on Sunday, 31 October at 5:45 pm.

Sreekantan Nair reasons with Kadamattathu Kathanar's re-positioning, the channel wants to come up with more and more successful serials. "Kathanar has been on since a long time and is still doing reasonably well. But we want to plan it long-term," he points out.

On 8 November, Asianet is launching another primetime daily soap Oorma directed by KK Rajeev. The show has Devan and Priya Raman doing the lead roles. The channel hasn't decided on the timing at the time of filing this report. Asianet will be winding up its 9 pm serial Muhoortam shortly.

According to a channel official, the channel's policy is not to stretch any serial beyond its limit. "The story is almost over and we don't want to ruin its ratings by stretching the storyline," he offers.

To counter Savari Giri Giri, Asianet introduced a star-studded comedy serial Life is Beautiful in the weekend 9:30 pm slot. On 25 October, the channel launched a daily musical entertainment programme Maanyamahajanangaley anchored by popular television artists.

Primetime warfare apart, Asianet jumped into the SMS bandwagon in October by launching two SMS-based interactive services. It developed two short codes -- 7887 for the India and 6017 for the Middle East -- through which Asianet news can be accessed. The same codes can be used to cast vote on the channel's opinion poll and also to send voice messages to one of its new shows Dil Se.

"I can't say that we don't have any competition. Any new entrant in the Kerala market wants to compete with Asianet first. We are interested in only healthy competition. Such a competition helps us to come up with quality programmes. We look at competition quality-wise and content-wise," comments Nair.

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