Television

Star World goes glocal, Zee Café in brewing mode

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Brew a potent local concoction and blow away the competition.

That on the surface would seem to be what Star World has managed with its smash hit (we‘re talking English entertainment here) chat show Koffee with Karan vis-a-vis rival Zee Café. But is that perception or fact? This piece looks at how the two direct competitors in the English entertainment space are faring.

Ratings Scenario: On this front Star World clearly has the upper hand. Tam data c&s 15+ five Metros SEC A,B indicates that viewers spend more than twice as much time on Star World as on Zee Café. In March 2005, viewers spent an average of 13 minutes on Star World versus six minutes on Zee Café. This is a healthy increase from September 2004 when viewers spent an average of 10 minutes on Star World versus five minutes on Zee Café. A part of the reason has to do with localisation initiatives which will be discussed in depth later on.

The top 20 shows for 2005

Zee Café
Star World
Name
TVR
Name
TVR
Friends
0.92
Koffee With Karan 1.64
Friends
0.82
Koffee With Karan 1.1
Fresh Hits
0.72
Friends 0.91
Friends
0.64
Koffee With Karan 0.85
Friends
0.54
Koffee With Karan 0.84
Full House
0.51
Koffee With Karan 0.83
Friends
0.50
Koffee With Karan 0.83
The Hogan Family
0.48
Koffee With Karan 0.79
The Benny Hill Show
0.41
Koffee With Karan 0.63
Friends
0.40
Star Asia Travel 0.62
Sportsd Illustrated
0.38
Star Asia Travel 0.60
Full House
0.36
Koffee With Karan 0.59
Will and Grace
0.35
Koffee With Karan 0.58
Full House
0.35
Western Music 0.57
The Making of Reindeer..
0.34
Koffee With Karan 0.56
The Benny Hill Show
0.34
The Bold & The... 0.55
Full House
0.33
Star Asia Travel 0.53
Full House
0.33
Star Asia Travel 0.53
Full House
0.33
Star Asia Travel 0.53
The Hogan Family
0.33
Western Music 0.53

In terms of share during primetime 8-11 pm on weekends (Saturday and Sunday) Star World had a 78.6 per cent share in 2004 versus 21.4 per cent for Zee Café. This year Zee Café is faring slightly better. Its share has gone up to 30 per cent. On weekdays (Monday- Friday) Star World has a 75 per cent share.

In terms of reach during weekends Star World boasts a 54.59 per cent figure versus 10.54 for Zee Café.

A Period Of Change: For Zee Café 2004 was a year of change. Ajay Trigunayat returned as the channels business head taking over from Abhijit Saxena. The channel which was earlier known as Zee English was rebranded Zee Café. As an official spokesperson puts it "the name fits well with feel of the channel." It also put into its place a new programming and marketing team. One person is now in charge of marketing and programming of Zee Café.

What is good for the goose is not good for the gander: In the past two years the channel has undergone three changes at the helm. Perhaps as a result of this the channel has seen strategies and revisions that have not always worked. It has tried to experiment. For instance, last year in what can be seen as an attempt at replicating AXN‘s success, Zee Café tried its hand at action oriented programming. Investment in programming went up by 70 per cent and it brought in shows like Renegade, The Fugitive and Oz.



One of Zee Café‘s

experiments last year

However, the move did not quite work as far as hooking viewers was concerned. None of these shows feature in the channels top 20 list for 2004. The channel was then forced to go back to its USP of comedies and dramas. Out went hastily brought in shows like Kung Fu and in came new seasons of shows like Friends and The West Wing.

It reiterated its position of the best of action and comedy. While one can accuse those shows of being repetitive as they have been running for the past few years, at the same time it must be pointed out that being too inventive and moving away from what has worked is not always a sound strategy.



Matt LeBlanc shows off his booty in Friends

Warner provides about 80-90 per cent of the channel‘s content. It will bring in a new season of another staple The Sopranos in July. In the recent past Zee Café introduced blocks like the LOL (laugh out loud) band around the popular comedies in the channel from 9 pm to 11 pm. In the past, it has also made some efforts at increasing the variety with shows like Six Feet Under, which is an acquired taste, as well as Mind of The Married Man.

As per information available with indiantelevision.com, discussions with other production houses regarding acquiring new content are still going on. The new initiatives are expected to be finalised later this month.

The crucial question though: What do advertisers feel about the look of Zee Café? Group M‘s Manas Mishra says that clients have not shown much enthusiasm over it.

The difficulty, according to Mishra, is that there is no measurable ROI for these two channels. That is because the ratings are too low. So the concept of cost per ratings point (CPRP) does not come into play. A media planner, however, uses them in order to forge a connect with the SEC A viewer and with the working women in the Metro cities.

Starcom MD (west and south) Ravi Kiran points out that getting enthusiastic about a channel/new programmes does not always translate into spending on the channel. Channels are either selected based on the TVR or reach/incremental reach. Typically, special interest channels (excluding Hindi movie channels) get into the plan to build incremental reach.

Reality, desi fare do the trick for Star World: As is the case with Zee Café, Star World too has a mix of dramas like The Practice, Jag and comedies like That 70‘s Show, Frasier and Ally McBeal that form a healthy part of the channel‘s programming backbone. Industry observers maintain that for viewership for English general entertainment channels to grow new programming categories will have to be added. Star World has done this.

Last year it broadened its repertoire by introducing the reality genre through The Apprentice and American Idol. This strengthened the Friday night slot. Later this year it will introduce Rock Star. That sees a search being conducted for a new lead singer for INXS.

Oven fresh content is important in the channels plan which is why it will introduce one of the hottest shows in the US, Desperate Housewives. Star World has also dabbled in action fare to a slight extent. I Dare You: The Ultimate Challenge aired last year. This featured a series of dares a la Who Dares Wins that airs on AXN.

Speaking on the initiatives, Star World senior VP marketing and communications Ajay Vidyasagar says, "Our aim is to bring the biggest and latest shows from abroad onto indian television screens. We aired episodes of American Idol a day after it aired in the US. The bulk of our content is acquired from Fox and Buena Vista. We are particularly excited about our biggest property for the year Desperate Housewives."

"This is the show that turned the TV world on its head. The reason for this is that it expresses the needs and aspirations of working women who have to balance a career with a social life. We have conducted research and our findings show that the upper class working woman is keen on sampling the show."

Localisation the key to viewership growth: Having said that, it is the desi fare that has held a lot of appeal for viewers and advertisers. This is what has enabled the channel to differentiate itself from the competition. Tam data shows that for this year Koffee With Karan is the number one show for Star World with a rating of 1.64 and 1.1. It dominates the channels list of top 20 shows for the year.



Karan Johar‘s show has enabled Star World to differentiate itself

As Mishra points out, "In terms of shows that appeal to our clients, localisation initiatives like Koffee with Karan are extremely important if the viewer base and by extension ad revenue garnered is to see growth. That is because while sitcoms and dramas like Friends and Law And Order which have been running for years do have viewership that segment is not expected to see significant growth."

Localisation helps viewers build up a stronger sense of identity with the channel. In the past Star World has aired shows with an Indian flavour like Kumar‘s at 42 and Goodness Gracious Me, which did well in India. The Indian English band was introduced a couple of years ago and these shows helped strengthen the channel‘s backbone.

That was when the channel had introduced a separate beam for India. More recently its chat shows like Koffee with Karan and Rendezvous with Simi Garewal succeeded in building on the viewer connect and it has now moved Oprah to a primetime slot on Sunday. The Karan show in particular worked well due to the fact that it was able to rope in some of biggest names in the Indian entertainment industry. Another local chat show on the channel is Cover Story which is hosted by Vir Sanghvi.

However, its biggest localisation drive to date has been India‘s Child Genius. This was a show anchored by Siddhartha Basu and involved the search for India‘s brainiest child. In addition to localisation and formats, both the channels will need to expand on existing genres by adding new shows. Industry observers feel that just having new seasons of old shows will not grow viewership.

Zee Café is now looking to enter the localisation bandwagon though the channel has refused to comment on what plans it has.

What is interesting about Star World and Zee Café is that none of the dramas, whether it is Jag or The West Wing feature in the top 20 list. Reality shows are also absent on Star World‘s top 20 list both in 2004 and in 2005. The fact that the aspirational viewer tunes in can be gauged from the fact that Star Asia Travel is mentioned five times on Star World‘s top 20 list. The channel is now examining the possibility of bringing in a couple of shows that take viewers to the hottest vacation spots.



The West Wing has been a staple on Zee English

Zee maintains that while there is a difference in perception between the two channels Zee Café has built up a loyal following owing to content. Shows like Full House, Friends, Sopranos or even earlier shows like Seinfeld and Mad About You are still talked about, is the channel‘s contention. If anything, the fact that Star World will air episodes of Seinfeld from September, adds weight to that line of reasoning.

The role of special events: This plays a significant role for both the channels. Special events offer a break from the line up of comedies, dramas and other shows. Specials also hook viewers due to the news angle.

One category is that of television awards shows that reward product that airs on the two channels. This serves as an excellent platform for the two channels to push the pedigree of their offerings. So while Star World has the Golden Globe Awards Zee Café has the Sag Awards. Music based specials that examine the lives of icons like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Sting are popular.

Industry observers note that periodic events like Miss Universe, interview with Michael Jackson‘s parents, draw occasional viewers and occasional advertisers to the two channels. These one-off events also help the channels locking in some sizeable outlay due to their on-air, off-air appeal along with the news appeal and hype of the event. In terms of TVRs, these one-of events most of the time score a 100 per cent jump against their own ratings.

Miss World was the second highest rated show on Star World for 2004 with a TVR of 0.81. One initiative that has worked for Zee Café has been its music blocks. Blocks like Tune In and Fresh Hits made the channels top 20 list in 2004. So it comes as no surprise that this year Zee Café increased its forays into the world of music. It introduced three blocks - Sizzling Hot Videos under the brand name Velvette. Latest hits under the name Full On and classic tunes from the 1970s and 1980s under the brand name Reload. This features artistes like The Police, Madonna, Dire Straits and Led Zeppelin. The half hour Velvette airs every night at 11:30 pm while Full On airs every morning at 9:30 am. Reload airs on Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm.

The top 20 shows for 2004

Star World
Zee Café
Name
TVR
Name
TVR
Koffee With Karan
1.01
Friends
0.81
Miss World 2004
0.81
Caroline In The City
0.75
India Child Genius
0.78
Friends
0.75
Just Shoot Me
0.74
Caroline In The City
0.68
Rendezvous...
0.73

Tune in

0.68
Cover Story
0.72
Will And Grace
0.68
Focus Asia
0.71
Fresh Hits
0.60
Koffee With Karan
0.67
Caroline In the City
0.59
Koffee With Karan
0.65
Tune In
0.58
Movie in Focus
0.59
Friends
0.58
Hollywood Squares
0.59
Tune In
0.57
Whose Line Is...
0.59
Music Café
0.57
Movie In Focus
0.59
Hard Rock Live
0.57
Star Asia Travel
0.56
Amazing People
0.57
Star Asia Travel
0.56
Benny Hill Show
0.57
Rendezvous...
0.53
Over The Edge
0.53
Top Drive Getaway
0.52
Music Café
0.53
Koffee With Karan
0.52
Tune In
0.53
The Bold & The...
0.52
Tune In
0.53
India‘s child Genius
0.52
Hidden Hills
0.48

Grappling with sport: Wrestling has played a part in the strategy of the two channels at one point or another. Star World has TNA Wrestling on the weekends which is conspicuous by its absence on the top 20 list. A couple of years ago Zee Café aired Women Of Wrestling as it felt that the action element was missing in the channel. It was aimed at the teen and the young adult segment.

The ad pie size: Star World holds the edge here for two reasons. Firstly, on account of its localisation initiatives. The other reason is that Star World is seen as being more upmarket on account of the network that it belongs to although, as one observer put it, Zee Café‘s shows are just as good. Star World has seen more clients hop on board compared to Zee Cafe. The figures tell their own story.



Another staple of Zee English

The size of the English general entertainment ad pie (including AXN) is around Rs 450 million. Information with Indiantelevision.com indicates that while Star World got Rs 200 million last year Zee Café got around half that. Growth for this genre in the next couple of years in this genre is expected to be in the 10-15 per cent range.

The good news for them is that the entry of lifestyle channels is not expected to have any impact on the monies they earn. Kiran says that in any upscale male special interest planning, English genre is given importance because of the TG profile. As far as client opinion on Zee Café vis-?-vis Star World was concerned Kiran says, "Frankly speaking there is no particular bias towards any of these channels. Most of the opinions are based on the programmes telecast by these two channels. However Star World definitely has a upmarket imagery vis-?-vis Zee English because of the Network it belongs to."

At the same time, Zee has now started to make efforts at pushing all its channels. Now if an advertiser wants to buy for Zee Café and other channels, there is one client servicing person who deals with the top media buying agencies. Earlier one would have to meet 10 people for 10 channels. Planners note that to a degree Star World has the advantage of being able to piggyback on Star Movies. Very often clients buy for both as the profile is the same. Vidyasagar maintains that while both channels are sold separately most of the time, the two are sometimes packaged if the client so desires it.

Zee Café does not have this luxury as Zee Studio is still struggling in the English movie channel space. However, it is now in a better position to leverage the strength of the network to garner revenues as a sales team is in place.

Hitachi, Fiat, Western Union, Parx, Toyota, Sony Electronics among others have used Zee English or Star World in the past. HLL, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, ICI Paints, Whirlpool, Nokia are the big advertisers on Star World. Finolex, Parke Davis, Colgate Palmolive, Britannia are among those that advertise on Zee English.

Now what is interesting is that all the desi shows that brought viewers and as a result advertisers are off Star World at least for the time being. Clients that bought the Karan show also got spots on other dramas and comedies. Sometimes the spots were add ons that helped improve visibility and added to a brand‘s saliency. Vidyasagar says that once Karan Johar finishes shooting his new film the broadcaster will sit down with him and work out the details for a new season. India‘s Child Genius might return once Kaun Banega Crorepati completes its second run on Star Plus. That is because Siddhartha Basu‘s Synergy Communications has its hands full with the Bachchan show.

Marketing efforts: With more localised initiatives being introduced, it is only to be expected that Star World would take this activity to the next level. That is what it did with India‘s Child Genius. The show was introduced to viewers last year with a mass media campaign that broke in Mumbai and Bangalore with a teaser outdoor campaign. The show also scored a first in that it used the Internet extensively for publicising the show, calling for entries, downloading for forms as well as for the selection procedures. The result was that the show got a peak TVR of 0.78.

As far as this year is concerned, the channel is looking at using marketing tools to reach the upper class woman in order to create awareness for Desperate Housewives. Promos for the show have already started running across the Star Network. It will also use the online medium. It is talking to outlets in the Metros like clubs where upper class women hang out. Hoardings will also appear in prominent locations. The promotional tagline for the show is ‘Everybody loves a bit of dirty laundry.‘

Zee Café is far more low key by comparison. It does contests with contests2win.com. However, it does not do advertising in print, outdoors, cinema halls. It prefers to bank on the strength of promotions through the network. After all the number of spots run across the network costs around a few million a month. If that is not being done justice to that it amounts to actually putting money down the drain. In the past using the network to create awareness for Miss Universe generated more TRPs than a year when a huge amount of money was spent advertising in different media.

Going forward, it remains to be seen as to whether Zee Cafe sticks with the low key strategy.

Conclusion: Clearly in an increasingly fragmented market finding new genres and localising is important in the battle to hang on to market share and grow the viewership base. At the same time the challenge for the two channels will rest in building on their core strengths without becoming stale.

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