Television

Spiritually...

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Join your hands, just touching the navel...

Very slowly take your hands straight up.

Slowly close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing.

Ek… Do… Teen. breathe in and breathe out…..the saffron dhoti clad yoga guru goes on; as panting viewers settle down on their mats in front of the idiot box. Live reality programming? This is as real as it can get.

Importantly, this is not a one-off activity. It‘s appointment viewing with a whole lot devotion!

There are millions of viewers across the country seeking salvation via the tube. In an angst driven and time-pressed society, viewers are lapping up the best of what the spiritual channels have to offer. Whether its just about feel-good satsangs, tips on healthy living or just about listening to their favourite bhajans.

A few years ago, there were just a few of them and they were referred to as the bhajan and kirtan channels. Now there are many more - there is Aastha, Sanskar, Sadhana, Jagran, GodTV , Miraclenet and QTV, to name the better known ones.

And as the channels consolidate their positioning as a separate genre; they‘ve been setting new rules to the game. Though critics cry themselve hoarse about "polarising the masses on the basis of religion," the channels continue to churn out programmes with a devout sense of aastha (devotion).

Gearing for the kill, the channels are strategizing their content to suit the requirements of the changing audience. Now, its not at all about reaching out to the older viewers - the programming cuts across not just TGs but even countries.

And its not just about satsangs or religious programmes but ranges from a mix of health shows, lifestyle programming, religious tourism, art and culture or for that matter even live reality programming. Some like Aastha are reaching out to the NRI audience across the world; while Jagran is looking at getting the younger audiences into the loop.

VERTICAL STICKINESS

Market analysts say as the expanding genre has brought in a certain paradigm shift in the way the whole business is being conducted. The first one being that there is a certain vertical stickiness to the programmes; devout viewers who tune in at six in the morning normally remain clued for at least two to three hours as the other programmes follow. And the programmes remain a mix of anytime viewing as also appointment viewing.

Also, the viewer remains king even when it comes to the placement of ads. Additionally, since viewers do not really like advertisements in between programmes the channels prefer sponsored programmes. And keeping in mind the character of the programming, advertisements of certain products like shoe wear, liquor or tobacco are not accepted.

As of now, the channels mostly bank on original content, but produced in-house. This keeps the whole activity a low cost exercise. The advertising rates range from Rs 150-200 or Rs 550 to 1000 depending on the type of the programming. Apart from this there are other sources of revenue, one being the teleshopping business which marketers tap for ayurvedic or health products.

To understand the growing genre we took a look at the current channels in the market.

Channel Share %
Aastha
48
Sanskar
39
Jeevan
5
GOD
4
Sadhna
4
Source: TAM Media Research TG: 4+

Markets: All India Period: 17/4/05 to 14/5/05

AASTHA

Kirit Mehta CMD-CEO Aastha channel: "Spiritual channels are not just about religious programming, but cover a whole lot of other things ranging from health shows to tourist places or going places from Kashmir to Gangotri for yatras. We have been evolving in terms of our content and viewers have been lapping it up from day one."

The channel, which is available on cable as well as the DTH platform claims a viewership of 24 million. Currently, the channel is heavily concentrating on distributing itself worldwide. Says Mehta, "We have a loyal viewership for all our programmes but the most popular one is the session of Ramdevji Maharaj. In fact, he‘s the KBC of my channel commanding a very high viewership."

Apart from this, the channel has some other entertaining programmes like Aastha Antakshari. And is also in the process of doing a series on the enchanting temples of Tamil Nadu to bring out the intracacies of temple architecture.

As of now the advertisers on Aastha include - Reliance, Amritdhara, Lavanya institute, Surya Bulbs and Tubes et like we are doing an enchanting temples of Tamil Nadu where we bring out even the intracies of temple architecture."

SANSKAR

Kihore Mohatta, director Sanskar: "Since the time we launched two years ago there has been a gradual change in the attitude of media planners. It‘s an irony of sorts that on our channel the time spent by viewers is very high and its all about loyal appointment viewing. And sometimes this is the reason that advertisers worry whether viewers will watch the ads."

"A few years ago some of the advertisers did not want to be on religious channels. But this has now changed and so has the programming. Our bent is not religious but spiritual in terms of the treatment."

As of the now the channel claims it‘s reaching out to more than 12 million people And has names like Videocon, Shri Cement, Reliance, Ajanta, Anchor, Lux & Emami amongst a total of 43 brands.

The channel concentrates on making in-house original bhajans which constitute a large part of their innovative programming. Some of the other important brand names are Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sadhu Vaswani amongst others. The channel is very strong in the hardcore Hindi belt and getting ready to gear up for the Southern market.

Says Mohatta, "It‘s not just the viewers who are loyal but even the advertisers, who are with us for the year long. Also, there has been a change in the way the genre is being perceived. Earlier on the belief was that the game is all about getting sadhus. No one was concentrating on creating content. But now times have changed and we in fact create more than thre to four original bhajan & kirtans a day."

JAGRAN

Business Head- Anil Anand: "The channel which has been around for the last one and half years is now in a re-positioned itself as a socio-spiritual channel. It has adopted the secular route to religion and offers a mix of Gurbani, Koran, Bible - Lifestyle spiritual programming, talk shows as well as films."

"Though a spiritual channel it has to make good business sense. And the best way to do that is to take the channel ahead towards the youth. Afterall, large MNCs and other advertisers are not too keen to look at the older generation. So, we‘re trying to take the channel forward by introducing " The advertisers on the channel are Ashok Masala, Black Rose Ayur Herbal, MDH, Divinity - God based product.

Right now, in a makeover mode, the channel will adorn a new look with a number of new programmes and innovative channel packaging, this year. The channel has lined up some popular spiritual mystics and guru‘s that include Shri Sathya Sai Baba, Osho , Shri Ravi Shanker, Murari Bapu, BramhaKumaris, Guru Maa, Mridul Krishanji, Shri S.N. Goenka. The. The new programs that are being introduced this month are Flavours of Faith, a program that showcases glimpses of teachings of all religions - The Gita, The Holy Bible, The Guru Granth Sahib and The Holy Quran.

On a lighter vein, it has a daily feed of humour with Osho Jokes, apart from the lifestyle programming like Vastu, Feng Shui, Food, Health, Alternate Lifestyle etc. A separate program on the life and the teachings of Gautam Buddha is lined up that will narrate stories from the life of Buddha and highlight his teachings in an applicative way along with simple meditation techniques. Other weekly programs to be on air soon include "The Tarot Show" hosted by the International Tarot reader Nancy Sood, a call in program that answers to viewer questions online.

To top it all, the channel has broadened the scope of its film library and added some legendary titles, that are lined up for telecast this summer. A few of them are socio-patriotic greats of their time - Shaheed (old), Saransh, Eeshwar, Upkaar, Purab aur Paschim, Shaheed Bhagat Singh (new) and more. With a strong backing From the Zee library the channel also has lined up a few religious movies.

Currently the channel is available on the DTH platform and is trying to concentrate on creating customized pay content on the web.

God TV

God TV has been broadcasting in India since 2003. It is headquartered in Chennai. The channel is the brainchild of Rory and Wendy Alec and was founded in 1993. Besides the Indian channel there are four other channels - two channels in England (God 1 and God 2), one in Africa and one that is webcast to reach more people.

GodTV claims to offer a new breed of international Christian programming, including cutting-edge conferences, in depth interviews and youth and music shows, featuring prominent Christian leaders and artists from around the world. One of its popular shows is The Messenger with John & Lisa Bevere.

MIRACLENET

Miraclenet also launched in 2002. the channel‘s tagline is ‘A Move to God‘. The network was created by Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). The word of the gospel is spread by preachers like Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland. The attraction is the promise of health and wealth as the divine right of every believer, backed by the confident appearance of fidelity to the Bible.

These preachers subscribe to what is called Word-Faith Theology. This teaches that faith is a power or force that can the tapped in order to get whatever you want from God.

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