Observers upbeat on 'Desperate Housewives' despite ratings

MUMBAI: The West has been won but the East is proving a tougher nut to crack. Desperate Housewives, the show that turned around the fortunes of US broadcaster ABC, has still to set the ratings charts alight for Star World, which airs it in India.


Tam data c&s 15+ 5 Metros SEC A, B shows while the show is catching on it is has still failed to match the viewership gotten by its top rated shows in the past. The first episode of the show which aired on 15 July 2005 at 10 pm managed a TVR of 0.03. The fourth episode on 5 August got a TVR of 0.26 which shows that the show might just be picking up. By comparison Friends, Star Asia Travel earlier this year comfortably managed to get TVRs over 0.50. Clearly the sitcom has managed to carve a loyal fan base over the years while Desperate Housewives is still finding its feet.

A scene from Desperate Housewives

As far as Oprah Primetime, which airs every Sunday at 8:30 pm is concerned the maximum TVR it managed was for the first episode 0.21. Since then it has dropped to 0.02 on 7 August 2005. The fact is that neither of these two shows has local relevance. In this scenario there is always the chance that people who initially sampled the show will not return. The time that viewers spend on an average each week on the channel has risen marginally from 2.3 minutes in 2004 to 2.5 minutes in 2005.

Of course TVRs are not the only thing that planners look for. A media planner adds that in Mumbai Desperate Housewives managed to fare better. What the ratings do show is that some of the new viewers that Koffee With Karan gave Star World may have gone off it. At the same time as far as Quality Ratings Points are concerned Star World is doing a good job in helping planners boost incremental reach among SEC A.


Channel Speak: Speaking on this Star India senior VP marketing and PR Ajay Vidyasagar says, “For premium English entertainment content, Tam may not really be the absolute barometer for success. Going simply by the buzz around the show, the number of huge articles in mainline print media (including those on the cultural relevance and impact of the show), it's clear that the show has struck a huge chord with the discerning upscale consumer of premium English entertainment. We are more than satisfied with the response as Desperate Housewives is clearly the most talked about show in the English general entertainment genre.”

The stars of Arrested Development strike a pose

Madison's Rahul Panchal, whose clients sunk money into the show agrees with Vidyasagar. He says that he is not overly concerned about the ratings. "Basically I am trying to reach a high quality audience that does not always get properly reflected in the ratings. I am sure that there will be shows which have a rating of zero (which is the case with Rock Star INXS). The same logic applies to F1. I am sure that when Tam introduces its Elite Panel, things will change.

"Also one must remember that Desperate Housewives has to contend with news shows on a Friday night like Star Plus' soap Ba, Bahu Aur Beti which airs after KBC 2 on Star Plus. Earlier there was no strong competition in terms of a compelling soap on a Friday night.

"India is a one television household and if one's mother wants to watch Star Plus' soap then even if I am a fan of Desperate Housewives I will not be able to watch it. In terms of ad revenue growth it very much depends on how much inventory Star World is able to sell at higher rates with the new rate card."

Vidyasagar adds that the TG for show was not just women. Across the world the audience split was 55 per cent women and 45 per cent men for this show. “Given that the premium English entertainment consumers in India are at the top most end of the socio-economic spectrum they are expected to behave more or less like their counterparts in US/UK. We expected similar consumption patterns gender wise in India as well.”

Talking about the ratings scene Vidyasagar says there is certainly a need for an Elite Panel that measures niche channels on parameters different from mass channels, or measures audiences differently. “It is quite a difficult task to accurately capture the top strata of English entertainment consuming viewers, and existing systems are not quite up to the task. So I do hope that the Elite Panel from Tam will do the trick.”

When asked what the plan was going forward Vidyasagar points out that while any channel wants to increase eyeballs with premium English entertainment the additional task is to service the existing audiences better. That is because more than any other genre, these consumers are exposed to the best of entertainment abroad and therefore are more demanding and less sticky. That is why one will never see endless repeats or new seasons of the same shows on Star World says Vidyasagar.

He goes on to point out that today Star World is the only channel that is bringing the very best of American entertainment to Indian audiences, barely five-six months after their success in the US. And every month there are at least two or three new shows launched - most of them critically and commercially acclaimed in their country of origin. “For example in the last couple of months we have launched Desperate

Housewives, Arrested Development and Scrubs. In the near future we will launch 8 Simple Rules and Grey's Anatomy, among others."

That it is not just about ratings is clearly borne out by the fact that Star charged a premium for Desperate Housewives. Information available with indicates that it was at least 45 per cent higher than what the broadcaster charges for regular shows. The minimum outlay that a brand had to spend on the channel was also raised. Observers point out that Desperate Housewives was probably the first time that Star World went out of its way to promote a Western show.

On the numbers front though, if it wants to get in more eyeballs then an elitist local show would be in order opine observes. This will help complement the Western shows it has. Vidyasagar declined to comment on plans in this arena saying that it was too premature. If Koffee With Karan and Rendezvous With Simi Garewal do move to Star One then some new ideas will have to be thought of for Star World.

Planners also point out that the growth in the English news and infotainment genres has put some pressure on the English general entertainment genre. That is because clients have more outlets to reach upscale viewers.

Talking the relationship the channel has with the ad fraternity Vidyasagar says the new ad sales rate card which was introduced for the entire Star network has been in force for a couple of months now and the response to Star World as a brand is as robust as ever. Today there are increasingly more and more top notch brands launching in India. And more and more brands are introducing higher priced variants of extending existing product lines. “Star World will continue to be one of the primary vehicles for brands targeting the upscale Indian.”

In terms of the way in which the channel deals with clients, Vidyasagar says that there is a much sharper focus on the needs of the client with the separation of the teams into the network and channel teams. This means that both the big and the small clients are being serviced much more efficiently today and client expectations are being met better than ever


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