Hindi GECs in summer overdrive

"We will have to speak to our competitors and see how they are placed before scheduling our press conference," says a PR executive who works for one of the leading Hindi general entertainment channels.The interesting comment came when we told her about the big day ?24 April? that would witness the launch of about five programmes across the channels.

Yes, this summer is about to witness a programming bonanza in the general entertainment channel (GEC) space, with not less than eight prime time shows being lined up for launch during this April-May phase. Both the weekday and weekend prime time bands will witness a flurry of activity and the shows gearing up for launch include some big budget projects as well. Star Plus, Sony, Zee, Sahara One and Sab, all will be launching an array of soaps during this time.

Star Plus will replace its daily soap Milee with the much-awaited Ravi Chopra production Viraasat. The show will run Monday to Thursday in the 9 pm slot, starting 24 April. The channel has also lined up two shows -- Prithviraj Chauhan, Dharti Ka Ek Veer Yodha and Ek Chaabi Pados Mein -- for launch in May.

According to Star India senior creative director Shailja Kejriwal, Prithviraj Chauhan will run Friday to Sunday, while Ek Chaabi Pados Mein is yet to be scheduled. "Prithviraj Chauhan will run Friday through Sunday. Internal discussions are going on to decide the time slot for this show, as well as the exact schedule for Ek Chaabi Pados Mein," says Kejriwal.

The channel has been working on these three projects since a long time as it required strong properties to fill the void left by its weekend driver show KBC 2. With the launch of these three big projects -- two in the weekend band and one in the weekday band -- Star Plus? attempt will be to bring in some significant improvement as well as consistency to its performance in the prime time band across the week.

Sony, on the other hand, is now eyeing weekdays and is introducing two new shows on 24 April, after strengthening its Friday band with its Shukra Hai Shukravaar Hai package. Aisa Des Hai Mera will be aired at 9 pm and Thodi Khushi Thode Gham at 9.30 pm from 24 April. The shows will run from Monday to Thursday.

On Monday and Tuesday, these two new shows will replace the second season of Indian Idol, which is coming to its end. Whereas, on Wednesday and Thursday, the two shows will substitute Deal Ya No Deal, which is now being made into a weekly and will air only on Friday at 8 pm.

The channel is unveiling its programming strategy gradually. While the first one was to strengthen the Friday line up, the second is to ramp up the 9 to10 pm band on weekdays.

In the next couple of months, Sony will also be revamping the 10 to 11 pm band as well as the afternoon band, where the latter at present comprises re-runs of old shows and repeats of prime time shows. Also, Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi, which airs from Monday to Thursday at 10 pm will end its run in May and new shows are likely to be introduced then.

Says Sony Entertainment Television (SET) India chief operating officer NP Singh, "We will be rolling out our new programming strategy step by step in the coming months. The beginning was made with the Friday lineup. By July, the programming schedule of Sony will be completely transformed."

Sony?s move to strengthen its weekday programming with fiction will also see the channel taking a deliberate retreat from the reality terrain. Once Indian Idol 2 bids adieu, the channel will have its reality dose further scaled down with only Fear Factor there to represent the genre.

Sab TV will be also be launching a new show - Twinkle Beauty Parlour in May in the 9 pm slot. However Sab business head Vikas Bhal declined to comment whether it would be a weekday or weekend show.

While Sony is making some calculated moves to regain lost glory in prime time, the Zee camp is not sitting on its laurels but banking on some big launches. After launching its biggest project of the year Business Baazigar on 31 March, Zee TV will flag off another key property on 24 April. The soap Jab Love Hua will replace Rubba Ishq Na Hove and Sarrkkar in the 8:30 pm slot to run Monday through Friday. Then viewers can also expect some fireworks from the latest Sa Re Ga Ma Pa version Ek Mein Aur Ek Tu. It is learnt that the channel has ensured a high doze of reality-oriented excitement in the forthcoming episodes of the talent hunt show.

Ek Mein Aur Ek Tu along with Zee TV?s soap brigade have their task cut out: block any resurgence by Sony and make the viewers thank Zee TV as well - be it a Monday or a Friday.

On Monday, 10 April, Sahara One will be launching a new fiction show - Suno? Harr Dill Kuchh Kehtaa Hai in the 10 pm slot. This show will run from Monday to Friday and will replace the re-runs of Virasaat on the channel. Once Buniyaad gets over in May, Sahara One will be launching another show - Sati to replace it.

Reshuffle in Prime time rankings; Sony & Star One push Zee to fourth spot

Interestingly, since the re-launch of Shukra Hai Shukravaar Hai on 10 March, Sony?s prime time performance has seen a radical jump. Last month, the channel strengthened its Friday lineup, which included Deal Ya No Deal (8 pm), Fear Factor (9 pm), CID (10 pm) and Kandy Floss (11 pm). While Fear Factor has been the top rated show on Sony for three consecutive weeks; the new format CID has also been rating well consistently for the channel.

In the week beginning 26 February, Sony?s prime time (8 pm to 11 pm) channel share was 12.9 per cent in the C&S 4+ Hindi speaking market according to Tam. Whereas, in the week beginning 5 March (when the new Friday lineup was introduced), the channel?s prime time share jumped to 20.3 per cent. In the corresponding week (12 March), the share further increased to 22.1 per cent. However, in the week beginning 19 March, the prime time channel share fell to 17.2 per cent.

The latest prime time picture is as follows:

Star Plus? share in the prime time fell from 56.9 per cent in the week beginning 26 February to 46.8 per cent in the week beginning 5 March and further to 43.4 per cent in the week beginning 12 March, according to Tam. In the week beginning 19 March, Star Plus? prime time channel share rose to 49.1 per cent.

Star One meanwhile has overtaken Zee TV in prime time to claim the third position with 14.8 per cent channel share as opposed to Zee?s 11.6 per cent in the week beginning 19 March. The shows which have triggered the good performance for Star One include Saarabhai Vs Saarabhai, Remix, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge 2, Kya Hoga Nimmo Ka and Mano Ya Na Mano.

On the other hand, Sahara One, which has claimed to be the number three channel in the week ending 25 March, is still way behind Sony as far as prime time channel share is concerned. Sahara One?s prime time channel share in the week beginning 19 March was 5.3 per cent. Star One has overtaken Zee TV in prime time to claim the third position with 14.8 per cent channel share as opposed to Zee?s was 11.6 per cent in the week beginning 19 March.

As the prime time action heats up across the networks, expect to see an ongoing jostling for leadership positions over the next two months. Behind Star Plus of course.

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