Zee leads pack of musical sagas; Sony overtakes Star

Weekend primetime viewing is bracing up for some nail biting competition across the top general entertainment channels, each sprucing up its reality offerings to capture audiences. This wave of reality formats emerged across the horizon in the month of May, each following the reality curve and heading towards climax as they collectively approach their final weeks.

The broadcasters - Star Plus, Zee TV and Sony - are gearing up to back each of their weekend 'eye pullers' with full gusto! An analysis of Tam's revelations bring to light how each of these shows have shaped up since launch, followed by how they stack up against each other in their fight to reach the top.

The Evolution:

In this race for TRP's, Zee TV has consistently been ahead of the game with its music talent hunt Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge 2007. In its opening weeks the broadcaster was wrestling with Sony'sIndian Idol that launched at the same time. But not for long, as Zee suddenly snatched a huge chunk of eyeballs with a whooping TVR of 5.5 on 18 May (Tam C&S 4+, HSM) and has practically hogged the limelight since then. Coincidently, this was the same day that Star Plus kicked off its version of the musical talent hunt Star Voice of India, which received a cold shoulder from viewers with a TVR 2.9 inspite of having grabbed the former producer, host and judges from Zee's earlier edition of the musical format.

Grappling with this situation, Zee seems to have aggressively upped its efforts stating that this edition of the landmark property would prove to be a "Sangeet Ka Pratham Vishwayudh," as though the broadcaster were making a point! So far, Star has only beatenSa Re Ga Ma Pa on one occasion with a rating of 4.3 (Tam 8 - 9 June, C&S 4+, HSM) while Zee lagged at 4.1.

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge
Indian Idol 3
Star Voice Of India
4 May Fri
5 May Sat
11 May Fri
12 May Sat
18 May Fri
19 May Sat
25 May Fri
26 May Sat
1 June Fri
2 June Sat
4 June Mon
5 June Tue
6 June Wed
7 June Thu
8 June Fri
9 June Sat
15 June Fri
16 June Sat
22 June Fri
23 June Sat
29 June Fri
30 June Sat
(Tam Peoplemeter System: TVR, C&S 4+, HSM)

More recently, the tables seem to have turned on Star as Indian Idol, which was earlier trailing behind Voice of India, has suddenly propelled into the second spot after Zee, for two weeks running. Sony's Idol clocked a rating of 2.67 and 3.42, shoving Star to 2.06 and 2.92 on 29 and 30 June respectively (C&S 4+ HSM).

This is particularly significant as Zee'sSa Re Ga Ma Pa andIndian Idol have already entered the final stages rounding off the shortlisted contestants, a phase that garners large audiences. Star Voice of India will arrive at this juncture next week. Therefore, one can expect heavy duty action between the three players.

The Experts:

Skirmishing for the spotlight, programming tweaks and surprises will be the order of the day. The experts that tug the reigns of success for these shows have their own gyan to share……

Zee TV senior vice president programming Ashvini Yardi confesses, "My biggest fear was that this being the second edition of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, it would not fare as well as the first. But it turns out that this year the response in terms of ratings has been far better. It is an established brand with the best singers and mentors on board and this year were have consciously made it bigger and more glamorous."

Talking of talent - other players also vouch for the superiority of their talent, so who decides? A confident Yardi replies, "Let the ratings speak for themselves."

With Zee holding centre stage andIndian Idol putting up a challenge to Star Voice of India, the space is getting more intense. Star India VP marketing Prem Kamath attributes the slip in ratings to its delay in the peaking cycle because it was launched after its two competitors. "This is a natural swing of ratings that are witnessed on a weekly basis. Besides, Voice of India will only step into its final stages of voting in the coming week. It is then that we will see the show peak to reach its crescendo."

He adds that with crucial Indian cricket matches coinciding "the share will go from the leaders." But will this rating dip indicate a trend? "Well, we will just have to wait and watch," opines Kamath.

Betting big on Idol is Sony EVP and business head Albert Almeda who says a "snowball effect" has emerged out of the evolution of the show across the four stages including the auditions, the theatre round, the piano round and now culminating with a gala final phase. "Over time, the viewers have grown in their emotional involvement with the show and its characters. We are bound to see a huge spike in the ratings as the contestants are backed by audiences in their transformation from uncut individuals to professional artists.

"As the pressure mounts in the fourth and final stage of the show spanning over 12 weeks, we expect to see our ratings to be in excess of four," adds Almeida.

With no less fervor, both Zee and Star will up the volume of their activities around the show. Zee has seen benefits of roping in celebrities for cross promotional activities and will continue to invest heavily on that strategy. They recently brought Sunny Deol onto the show to promote his latest film Apne.

Kamath counters, "A marketing outburst of both on and off air activities will be unleashed during the voting rounds, while twists and turns embedded in the programming will be seen. This will result in a natural fillip in the ratings."

But Zee has bigger aspirations, Yardi has raised the bar for the challenge expecting it to touch the No 1 slot across all GECs. "Just as the finale of Lil' Champs pushed the property into the No 1 position across all general entertainment channels, so also do we expect the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Challenge to achieve the same," she affirms.

The Bigger Picture:

With a bird's eye view of the Indian television landscape, the scenario of the top three players from January to June 2007 depicts the gradual decline of a leader and the emergence of a strong challenger. Star Plus has been showing a consistent downward trend with the relative channel share touching 36 per cent in June from its position at the beginning of the year at 44 per cent.

Meanwhile, Zee TV has creeped up the ladder to occupy a share of 26 per cent from its position at 22 per cent in January. Although taking baby steps, Sony has also upped its standards from 12 to 14 per cent during the six month duration.

Relative channel share across Hindi GEC for Jan - June 2007
Star Plus
Zee TV
Sony TV
( Tam: Relative shares, C&S 4+, HSM)

What's more, Zee TV is claiming to be far closer to Star than ever before. The recent weekly GRP figures from Tam show Star at 323.5 and Zee at 263 narrowing the gap between the two to 60 (Week 26, 24 - 30 June).

Yardi points out the significance, "This is the first time in seven years that the gap between us and Star has been narrowed to 60. On two occasions earlier the difference has been 90 but this is the closest it has ever been."

The last week of June has actually seen the leader (Star Plus) forfeit 35.7 GRP's and Zee TV gain 19.6 GRP's.

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