Press Release

Weekend Primetime

15 August 2012

Top broadcasters are trying to revive the 11 am Sunday slot, with Star launching a follow-up to Satyamev Jayate and Zee launching Ramayan. Industry circles admit that the slot, usually a laggard in ratings, can be in the limelight on the back of good content with mass appeal

Is the 11 am Sunday slot back? Once upon a time, 11 am on Sundays was a prime-time band for weekend programming, and with competition almost non-existent in the late ’80s and early ’90s, state-run television channel Doordarshan used the slot for epic serials like Ramayan and Mahabharat, reaching a wide viewership. The advent of Satyamev Jayate in the same time slot generated a lot of buzz on whether it would be able to revive stickiness for the 11 am Sunday band.

Now, after 13 episodes, Star and Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate has concluded, but both Star and rival network Zee TV have already launched programmes to fit the slot. While Star has launched Lakhon Mein Ek, Zee has launched a mythological serial, Ramayan. The first episode was telecast last Sunday. Like Satyamev Jayate, Zee’s Ramayan is also being simulcast on DD. Sony, too, will air the next edition of Kaun Banega Crorepati in the weekend, leaving the Monday to Thursday primetime slot to soaps.

Analysts say Star wanted to continue with a show featuring powerful social themes after the success of Satyamev and hence launched Lakhon Mein Ek, “a new series that will build on Satyamev Jayate and keep the focus on issues of social consequence”. The show, launched on August 5, features stories of real life people who rose above the ordinary through choices they made. Says Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India: “Satyamev Jayate reinforced what we knew about our viewers. They have an appetite for compelling stories that are built around communities that we live in and that have a material impact on the kind of country we want to build and live in. Lakhon Mein Ek is consistent with that philosophy. The show itself is part of Star’s efforts to use TV’s reach to shape society’s outlook and mindset by making examples out of individuals who influence change.”

So has Satyamev Jayate really opened up Sunday viewing? Says Divya Gupta, CEO, Detsu Media: “We seem to go round in circles as far as TV viewing patterns are concerned. It is still true today that content is king. If the fare is worthy, the audience will develop. Sunday mornings have shown us that time and again, and Satyamev Jayate is no different. Sunday is one day that the entire family can watch TV together, relaxed and attentive. However, most channels use it mainly for repeats and movies, leading to selective and sample viewing. Every time good content has been aired, the audience has followed.”

Gayatri Yadav, EVP, marketing, Star India, says the response to Satyamev Jayate has been very positive with an average simulcast rating in Hindi speaking markets of four and digital homes in Mumbai and Delhi going up to a rating of eight. “This demonstrates the show’s ability to reach the masses. This has really galvanised the Sunday morning slot with Star Plus’s share going up 80% in the slot. The show has been viewed by about 52 crore viewers in India— 66% of the TV audience in India,” she points out. “We have continued to programme for the Sunday morning slot with socially-relevant content,” she adds.

So, are other channels likely to be interested in that slot as well, as a new primetime for weekend viewing? Gupta feels if channels want to keep the audiences for that slot, good and original programming needs to be initiated. “There was a time when Doordarshan did this very well—true, there was nothing else to watch then—but most satellite channels have ignored Sundays by and large. Anytime that a channel has taken the initiative and done something different or new on a Sunday morning, there has been an audience for it,” she points out.

Zee is trying out the slot with a tested epic serial. Says Ajay Bhalwankar, head-content, Hindi GECs, Zee: “Some shows, by sheer virtue of their content, deserve to be made available to everybody.” And Ramayan is a show that fits the bill, he points out. “So, with a view to ensuring that we maximise its reach, we have made the show available on Doordarshan at the same time slot of 11 am every Sunday. By showcasing Ramayan on a Sunday morning, we wish to engage the entire family, right from grandparents to the children in the house, in a joint TV viewing experience,” he adds.

Gupta and other analysts don’t think the simulcast of the 11 am Sunday show is a trend for keeps. Analysts point out that a show can be launched to target maximum viewership if it has the right content and the right anchor. “The Zee TV Ramayan is being simulcast on DD, but there is no indication that this will be an on-going trend of any sort. It depends on the scale of the property and the budget behind it. A broadcaster like Star, with an Aamir Khan property, can look at such simulcasts in a big way; other channels will have to manage within their language networks,” says Gupta.

For advertisers too, the Sunday slot is being rediscovered. Satyamev Jayate opened with a cumulative 4.9 across all cable and satellite and terrestrial homes and all demographics. It was pegged at R10 lakh per 10 seconds (inclusive for all channels), say industry sources. Says Gupta: “This is not something that can be replicated unless it is Satyamev Jayate Part 2. On an average the kind of programming and rates that currently prevail are viable. But put in a programme like Satyamev Jayate and price it like it is and you will still find many takers. For advertisers, a Sunday 11 am slot with good programming is a welcome addition to their options.”

So broadcasters are trying out many things to reach out to viewers. If English general entertainment channels are slotting cookery and crime shows at prime time (9 - 11 pm), Hindi GECs are experimenting with reality crime shows. Gupta argues that though there is potential for bringing other genres to the fore, “as long as soaps are the money-spinners and TRP gatherers, it is unlikely they will give up the spotlight.”

Source: MXM India

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