Television

India TV's channel share gains 'shakti' with sting ops

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NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The much maligned --- or the much massaged, depending on how one views it --- Casting Couch has claimed another victim: the competitors of India TV, which, itself, has been served with a government show-cause notice for airing indecent material.

However, the issue of the Casting Couch that had the nation frothing at the mouth for the last 15 days or so --- it even compelled Time magazine to devote one full page to the matter in a recent edition --- had the audiences glued to the TV sets most part of 13 Marc

According to the latest Tam data, India TV's couch stung the competition and upped its own ratings. The numbers for Sunday, 13 March, in the C&S 15+ Hindi speaking market, released by Tam late Saturday, show India TV stacked right at the top of the heap with a never-before channel share of 22.4 per cent.

Next in the pecking order for Sunday were Aaj Tak (20.2 per cent), NDTV India (18 per cent), Star News (14 per cent) and Zee News (13.4 per cent) with Sahara and DD News at 6.2 and 5.9 per cent, respectively.

The Week 12 channel shares definitely represent a gain for India TV of around 200 per cent from 7.5 per cent on the Sunday of Week 11. A major part of the gain rides on the back of market leader Aaj Tak, which dropped to 20.2 on 13 March from 30.1 per cent on the Sunday in Week 11.

An elated Rajat Sharma, chairman of India TV, told Indiantelevision.com, "The ratings do indicate that our sting operations cornered viewership and that's heartening."

When pointed out that India TV was attempting cheap gimmicks to up its average ratings, Sharma shot back, "We have done other sting operations too relating to making of synthetic milk, pilferage of gas from cylinders for domestic use and manufacturing of 'fake' goods, but people don't talk about it. Yes, the casting couch definitely created a buzz for India TV and this shows that there is place for good and different content in the news genre."

It isn't just a Sunday phenomena. A significant change is evident in the figures for the entire week too. Tam channel share figures for the C&S 15+ Hindi news market shows India TV, at 11.5 per cent in Week 12, witnessed a sharp rise from 6.7 per cent in Week 11. This gain in weekly average brings India TV close to Zee News (15.3 per cent) and Star News (17 per cent), and narrows the gap with Aaj Tak (22.9 per cent) and NDTV India (19.8 per cent).

What does competition have to say on the issue? A spokesperson for TV Today Network,managers of Aaj Tak, while admitting that India TV has gained on the back of sex-related sting operations, questioned the latter's ability to sustain the performance as "continued good ratings are not event led."

"In this business, everybody knows the name of the game is sustainability. How would India TV sustain these ratings, especially when the government has cautioned the channel not to air any such material in future?" the spokesperson quipped, adding that Aaj Tak's hallmark is consistency that has been drawing viewers to it continuously over the years resulting in market leadership.

Attempts made to elicit responses from Zee News and Star News proved futile as the spokespersons concerned of the two news channels were not available for comments.

Sharma, when further pointed out that competition feels such ratings are one-off types, quipped, "I'd be very happy if other channels keep on thinking such ratings are aberrations and are event based. At India TV, it gives us that much more time to prepare ourselves for the onslaught."

In the 1 million+ market, India TV's channel share increased to 13 per cent, within hitting range of Zee News (16 per cent), Star News (18 per cent) and NDTV India (18 per cent). In this market, Aaj Tak leads with 22 per cent and Sahara Samay and DD are at six and seven per cent, respectively.

Sharma points out that similar programmes, highlighting the pathetic deeds of swamis in Swaminarayan temples or political leaders being fed with sexual favours by mafias and contractors have, evoked several thousand emails, SMSs and letters.

"It isn't just stings. Look at the 36 per cent share we have one day before the Shakti Kapoor story," he argues, showing channel shares on 12 March between 9 pm and 9:30 pm, when the Sharma-anchored Aap Ki Adalat with Swami Ramdev is ahead of Aaj Tak, Star News, NDTV and Zee News.

For trivia's sake, here is some more data, culled from Tam:

India TV shares more than doubled in the Shakti Kapoor week across TGs.

India TV accounted 11-12 per cent of the news genre pie in March third week.

Shakti Kapoor episode more popular than Aman Verma baiting.

Audience time spent on the channel is constantly increasing, especially in the prime time.

On an average, 20 per cent more of the rival channel viewers watched India TV.

India's Most Wanted on India TV gained more than Aap Ki Adalat.

For good or bad, Bollywood's infamous Casting Couch, after the sting operations, drew detailed stories in The Times (UK), Time magazine, BBC and Voice of America, not to mention dozens of talk shows on other news channels like CNBC TV18, NDTV, Zee and Star News.

And, what does India TV plan to do next? Obviously serve the dessert for the viewers after the appetising meal, which comes in the form of a first-person interview with Ruchi this week. Ruchi, incidentally, is the reporter who posed as an aspiring actress and lured Kapoor and Verma to uncover the known-but-not-talked-about under-belly of the entertainment industry.

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