Sunday Mornings will never be the same again. That was the promise made by Star Plus, India's top general entertainment channel (GEC) when it launched Satyamev Jayate, a weekly chat show on topical social issues anchored by Bollywood star Aamir Khan, at 11 am on the first Sunday of this month. And if the initial television viewership ratings for the programme and the buzz across different media are anything to go by, the show could be a precursor to a new prime-time slot opening up on Indian television.
The last time that television made history on Sunday mornings was more than two decades back when serialised versions of the epic Ramayana and Mahabharata broadcast on public broadcaster Doordarshan, and the only channel then, saw entire families glued to their television sets. Since then, although more than a hundred channels have come up, television programming on a Sunday morning, albeit the entire day, has been largely restricted to re-runs of week-day serials, event-based shows or, at the most, blockbuster Bollywood movies.
“Star and Aamir have come together to push the frontiers of creativity and programming and create something that is truly impactful and engaging. Innovation by definition will challenge some of the conventions of the past,” says Gayatri Yadav, EVP, marketing – Star Network.
For Star, it has certainly been a programming coup. Aamir Khan was perhaps the only Bollywood star who had not anchored any show on the small screen. The teaser ads had already indicated that Satyamev Jayate would not be about entertainment. So the GEC, which has always been on the forefront of innovative programming, had to do something different to drum up the interest. This, it has done through a slew of marketing initiatives which included a campaign to keep the content of the show absolutely secret thus heightening viewer curiosity, and a very active buzz marketing campaign across different media which has kept the conversation rolling. The show is being aired not only on Star Plus, but simultaneously across several other channels on the Star network besides Doordarshan. This is for the first time in Indian television that a private network and a public broadcaster have come together to simultaneously air a programme, other than cricket.
Most importantly, Star has slotted the 90-minute show on a day and time when there is little else to watch on television, thus not only ensuring that it does not have to battle rival programming but also throwing open a new slot which has been largely ignored by the GECs. After a long time has a channel attempted to create a new prime-time slot. The only big thing on television in recent times has been the Indian Premier League and therefore, Satyamev Jayate has been a game-changer in more ways than one.
Shashi Sinha, CEO of media agency Lodestar UM, says usually there is one USP (unique selling proposition) but this show has a lot going for itself. “It has got Aamir and a deadly concept of social issues. There has been a good build-up around the show and they have an excellent tagline. The whole social media buzz, road blocking through simultaneous broadcast, everything is working in its favour. It also does not have competition from any other shows on a Sunday,” he says.
The channel's gamble seems to be paying off. According to data released by television audience measurement firm TAM Media Research, Satyamev Jayate garnered a strong 4 TVR (television viewership ratings) in the Hindi speaking markets (HSM) for cable and satellite (C&S) audiences in the four years-plus age group, and a 4.9 TVR for all Hindi speaking markets including C&S and terrestrial homes for the first episode aired on May 6 which looked at female foeticide. These are aggregated ratings of all simulcast channels in HSM markets. The equivalent ratings at an All India level was 3.4 (CS4+ All India) and 4.1 (All 4+, All India). Viewership data for the second episode which took up the issue of child sexual abuse was not available at the time of filing this report.
Says Star's Yadav, “Satyamev Jayate is a universal show that aims to touch the heart and connect with every Indian. This is the first time any show will be broadcast on a pan India platform and will be simulcast in all major channels of the Star network — Star Plus, Star Pravah, Star Jalsha, Star World, Star Vijay, Asianet as well as ETV Telegu and Doordarshan. This is a landmark move and is to ensure that every Indian has the chance to view and experience the show. The show has a larger aim and truly lives up to Star's promise of “Inspiring a Billion Imaginations”.”
One of the most interesting aspects of the show has been its timing -Sunday mornings, a slot which has been almost dead. Colors has been the only GEC which has explored the Sunday slot with its wellness show All is Well with Dr Ahluwalia which it launched a week before Satyamev Jayate.
Explaining the logic behind reviving this time slot, Yadav says, “With its unique telecast time, this time slot will bring families together to watch the show in a relaxed way on a Sunday morning, not unlike the nostalgia of Sunday morning family TV viewing of shows such as Ramayana and Mahabharata. This slot allows the family to sit together and watch the show without distraction and have the time and space to discuss it later in the day. Viewers have for long asked for more diversity of content on weekends and this seeks to cater to that need.”
Agrees Bharat Bambawale, director - global brands, Bharti Airtel, “From Ramayana, Mahabharata to Vikram-Betaal, traditionally, the Sunday morning slot has hosted many family shows that were enjoyed by all segments of the society and became an eminent part of the history of Indian television. The concept of Satyamev Jayate appeals to the very same audience and is relevant to each and every individual – thus making it the perfect show to bring back the trend of Sunday morning family TV watching time.”
The simulcast deal with Doordarshan breaks new ground. According to a senior DD official who did not want to be named, this is a 50-50% revenue sharing deal. Talking about the reasons for associating with Satyamev Jayate, the DD official says, “This show has got Aamir Khan on TV for the first time and deals with issues which are really close to public broadcasters. All the issues are social and are dealt with in a manner which is informative and interesting.”
Says Yadav of Star, “The imperative was to reach out to every Indian, that meant broadcasting the show across cable and terrestrial homes. The imperative of universal access to the show drove the decision (to align with Doordarshan), the rest followed.”
Satyamev Jayate is one of the costliest media properties ever. According to industry sources, advertisers are paying a huge premium at Rs 10 lakh per ad spot, which is almost double the rate of spots on IPL which ranges between R3 lakh and R5 lakh. The show has got eight sponsors. Airtel is the title sponsor and other sponsors include Aquaguard, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Skoda India, Axis Bank, Berger Paints and Dixcy Scott.
Declining to comment on the speculation about the ad rates, Star's Yadav says the show offered a unique proposition for advertisers. “The combination of reach, scale, impact and category exclusivity makes it a strong proposition for advertisers. With Satyamev Jayate, advertisers have an opportunity to connect with consumers at a deeper level on a show of tremendous importance and impact.” She also points out that the national platform and multiple language simulcast allows the advertiser to reach a large universe of people. “And finally the show offers category exclusivity which means no competing brand will be aired at a sponsor or spot level.”
Sinha of Lodestar says the rate is too premium if one goes by CPRP (cost per rating point) or CPT cost per thousand. However, “you will never get a certain audience like the SEC A and B from metros like Bombay, Delhi and Bangalore. This show is getting this audience which is the most difficult and cynical audience,” he points out. Also, because of the timing and other parameters, “this show is sort of a logical way to receive advertising” as viewers are in a positive frame of mind, he says.
The sponsors are certainly happy with the association. Says Bambawale of Airtel, “As a brand for everyone, Airtel has always taken the lead in associating with events, shows and initiatives that resonate well with the preferences of today's India. With connecting with people spread across India as a common focus area for both Satyamev Jayate and brand Airtel - we are excited to be associated with this show and look forward to the role it will play in entertaining while bringing inspiring stories to the fore.”
For Satyamev Jayate, Airtel has reduced the cost of SMSes to the show from Rs 3 to Re 1 – all proceeds collected via SMS will be donated by the company towards charity. The brand has done several integrations during the show - like Airtel 3G video calls to participants, exclusive availability of Satyamev Jayate title track on Hello Tunes for Airtel customers, transfer of donation amount to NGOs through Airtel Money, etc.
Marzin Shroff, CEO-direct sales and senior VP, marketing, Eureka Forbes (Aquaguard), found a direct synergy of Aquaguard with the show. He says, “This show is about bringing up issues, cleaning up impurities in life. Thus there was a virtual synergy as it is linked to what we are, a clean company. It links to our core values of protection, safety and health. The show has given people voice to actually do something. There is an orientation in terms of action.”
However, T Gangadhar, managing director, MEC India, the media agency of Group M, does not think that the rate is justified at all even though the show is doing well. “The sponsors need to ask what does it have for me and till now there has been no compelling argument for that. If the sponsors are paying that kind of premium, they should also take the association outside the show environment and leverage it. According to me, just being associated with great programming for such a premium is not enough, it is important for the advertisers to take this association forward,” he says.
According to Khurana of Madison (the agency behind the Airtel association), for brand Airtel, exposure is not the agenda anymore. It is about getting people to actually engage with the brand. And content like this gives the brand a wide platform to reinforce its bond with consumers.”
Finally, the big question – will the show be able to sustain its popularity? While the show is clearly a success right now, there are doubts about whether it will be able to retain its popularity considering the duration of the show – 90 minutes – and the serious programme content. “One and half hour is quite a lot. The second half gets tough,” says Gangadhar.
Sinha of Lodestar thinks that it is not a good idea to judge the show only by its ratings. “Ratings are quite clinical. You have to see the kind of response it is getting on social media. It is phenomenal.” He feels that it will definitely be a success because it is attracting some of the most fickle audience groups such as the youth and SEC A and B.
Another factor that is working for it is the huge amount of engagement it gets from the audience, especially via social media. “This show has the potential to engage people. It is making the idiot box less idiotic. It empowers people to actually do something like write to the show or make donations, etc,” said Amandeep Singh Khurana, COO of Madison Media Plus.
Gangadhar, on the other hand, has a word of caution. “The show has got a spectacular start, especially because nobody knew what to expect. However, in terms of the social chatter, the second episode was quieter than the first one. What the show must avoid is falling into a pattern. The first two episodes show that it has a set pattern and if it continues doing that, then viewership might fall. The subject to be discussed cannot be the only surprise element of the show.”
Whether or not Satyamev Jayate continues to deliver high TRPs, Star's latest move has certainly got the attention of rivals and viewers. It is a brave effort to revive weekend programming, and make Sunday mornings more interesting, if not memorable.
Source: Financial Express