Hindi GECs set sights on ad revenues

MUMBAI: Change is the only constant is an oft-repeated cliché. And we have seen Hindi general entertainment channels brining in their changing streaks of programming every year. Known for setting trends and bold moves, Star India’s Hindi GEC Star Plus was the first broadcaster to open a new slot by extending its early fringe primetime from 5.30 pm onwards on 15 June, 2015 with Mere Angne Mein (MAM). The show failed to generate positive ratings, and hence later the channel changed the time slot and made it a half hour show and started airing it at 6pm.

On May 9 Star Plus had reopened the slot with Beyond Dreams’ Jana Na Dil Se Door but later it changed the show’s timings and started airing it at the 10.30 pm time band. On the other hand, Zee TV extended its early primetime to the 6.30 slot with Vishkanya. Colors’ early primetime starts at the 6 pm time band whereas Sony Entertainment channel’s primetime starts from 8pm. Zee Network's new entrant &TV has recently forayed into 7pm time band with its new show Waaris.

The channels are not only experimenting with the content but also experimenting by expanding their primetime slot to increase ad revenue. Speaking about the extended primetime to, Sunshine Productions founder Sudhir Sharma said, “It's a good thing for producers and for the viewers as well. Instead of producing four hours of content they are now going to produce five to six hours of it. That also means that the business and the industry is improving and advertising revenue is coming up that is the reason why I think all the broadcasters have started increasing their primetime. There is the availability of clients/advertisers hence they are increasing their primetime slots.”

Early time slots budgets are different and advertising fee for the ten second slot is different as compared to regular primetime. “This is a business decision that they are doing shows at 6pm or 630 pm. Now on every channel you will see there are the shows on early primetime. It will always be a fight to get ratings on early the primetime slot but that is what the challenge is about. There is a requirement and there are advertisers available. They will not pay the broadcaster as much as the 9 – 10 pm time slot, but that is business strategy,” Sharma further added.

BBC Worldwide India SVP and GM Myleeta Aga added, “Extending primetime is a welcome thing. Different day parts will have different kinds of audiences. Of course the early fringe and primetime part will be more family co-viewing and maybe during the late part one can try some edgier content, but it's not a huge change. It's been there, everybody is trying things one project at a time to see what works.”

It's clear that the broadcasters’ decision to extend their primetime slot is not to garner more eyeballs but to attract additional advertising revenue. “Channels claim that 7 pm -12pm is their primetime while earlier it was 7pm - 11pm and even before that it was 8-10pm. It has changed with time and it has changed because of revenue pressure and not because of garnering more eyeballs. The audiences have not particularly increased during those time slots. If you look at the consumer class, it is larger in the metros. They have more money to spend in the larger towns than the smaller towns,” explained a media planner.

On an average, the 10 second slot ad rate could be between Rs 7000 to Rs 10,000 for 5pm-6pm time band and Rs 15000 Rs 17000 for 6pm and 6.30 pm time slot. But the media planning fraternity believes that the placement of a show majorly depends on its content. “Star Plus has done a lot as a first mover and if the show is good you will find the audience. There is a sizable audience at 500 or 5.30pm, though it’s not as big as the primetime audience, but I think the slot offers a lot more potential. If the show is good then I am sure it will find the audience as well,” the media planner added.

Undoubtedly, content is the king. The whole money game largely depends on what kind of content the channel is feeding to its consumer. Sharma further explained, “The latest release on Star Plus or Colors, Life OK, Zee or &TV for that matter --- Humari Bahu Rajnikant or may be Ishqbaaz, which is launching today, there is a definite change in terms of storytelling, they are not only about a small town girl, how she survives or how she is in Sasural. Various topics are being taped which is a fantastic sign. There is a definite demand and need for different kind of programming.”

“The main current trend in the industry that we are seeing about the kind of content is supernatural. That is certainly one trend. I think there continue to be attempts to have slightly different ways of storytelling. For example a new show on Life OK has a male lead as also on Star Plus’s Ishqbaaz. There is an appetite to try different things, but it's not a huge change, it's very small and subtle moves that broadcasters are making. The more bolder stuff is not necessaril resonating with the audience,” Aga opined.

Weekend programming is another new trend that is affecting the Hindi GEC waves. Sunshine Productions is among the few production houses which tried to experiment with Gulmohar Grand.

Sharma said, “We are one of the few production companies that have done many weekend shows. In India we haven’t tried fully and effectively weekend programming. Either the shows have not been marketed properly or they are too expensive to begin with. It’s a question of the viability for the producers and broadcasters versus popularity, there is no perfect match is what we have found.”

“Weekend programming is still not a part of our viewing habits and it will take some time. We need some more consistent programming on weekends. We do it for a while and change and come back to nonfiction and back again to the daily shows on Saturday and Sunday. Unless you are doing it long enough for habits to form, it will be difficult to get good audiences on weekends for the episodic dramas,” Aga explained.

Will this new trend of coining new slots as primetime work for the broadcasters? Is it sustainable? Will it work this time around? And though Content is King, the Advertiser is Emperor for the broadcaster and the Viewer is God for all these players. So will the King maker be able to convince the emperor and god/s on a sustainable repeatable basis? Only God can tell, or maybe even she/he/it can’t? Only time will, that is for sure! In the meantime hats off to the industry for making story telling so innovative, older stories more interesting, from another perspective, looking at a Ramayana from Sita’s angle or a Mahabharata from Karna’s point of view are cases in point, for creating additional jobs, for helping in the circulation of money, for …. The benefits go a long way across the value chain.

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