High-decibel Launches, Low-decibel Ratings

Look around your city and you will be excused for believing that launching and watching new television programmes is a national pastime in our country. You encounter these launch campaigns on the streets, at malls and multiplexes, in public transport services, and of course, now on the internet.

Indeed, about ten new ‘promotable’ programmes launch every month. Out of these, about half belong to mass Hindi GECs, while others are split across language GECs (including English), youth and infotainment. These campaigns are reaching out to audiences across the country, given the increasing importance of small towns in the viewership mix.

But the opening rating of new launches tells a different story altogether. In 2009, serials like Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai and Laadli would open to staggering numbers, like 5-6 TVR (first week average). Over the last three years, this number has dropped significantly. Today, an opening of even 2.5 TVR (touched in recent past only by Zee TV’s Aaj Ki Housewife Sab Jaanti Hai and Qubool Hai) is considered as more than a positive verdict on the launch marketing campaign of a serial.

The launch ratings for serials are in sharp contrast to movie premieres and big-ticket reality show launches. Several films have rated 7+ TVR over the last two years in their first telecast.

Some of the serials grow to become 4+ TVR shows in 3-6 months of their launch. For instance, Diya Aur Baati Hum launched at 2.0 TVR in August 2011. It crossed the 3-level in October that year, the 4 & 5-levels in December, staying at there ever since, with only occasional dips.

Clearly, the audiences have not lost interest in the content. But the importance they are attaching to serial launches has reduced significantly. The role of ‘Word of Mouth’ (WOM) has increased dramatically as a result. The meteoric rise of Diya Aur Baati Hum from 2 to 5 TVR within four months was aided by smart scheduling and sustenance promotions, but was primarily led by positive audience WOM around the show.

Why are new serials consistently getting lukewarm audience reception? Some argue that it is difficult to compare 2009 numbers to those of 2011-13, but that’s not true. Before digitization and the recent LC1 expansion, the last major panel change at TAM happened in January 2008. For almost four years, the universe has remained largely unchanged. The number of mass channels has remained the same too, with six prominent Hindi GECs vying for audience attention at any point of time.

In an industry study, we saw that channel loyalty levels have reduced over the last two years, and variety-seeking behaviour has gained prominence. Why then does this behaviour not reflect in launch ratings?

The answer is driven by what I call the ‘Wait and Watch Training’. After about half a decade of Star Plus-dominated viewership, our audiences were learning to handle a multi-channel environment from 2005-10. The idea of new launches across platforms was unnerving. What should I watch, what should I skip, what is the family consensus… it was all too complex. It was almost as if there was guilt associated with missing a new programme that was being heavily promoted.

Over time, confusion has given way to comfort and prudence. There is a growing sense of realization that the world will not come to a standstill if I miss the launch week of a new serial. I can probably catch a repeat or two to gauge the serial first. But even more than that, I can rely on WOM to get a verdict that will primarily influence my choice to sample the serial.

In effect, there’s an element of cynicism in the viewer response to launch campaigns today, which triggers this Wait and Watch behaviour. Too many launches have flattered to deceive in the past. Also, many serials promise a lot in the first few weeks, and then eventually lose their mojo. This takes away the premium-ness from a launch. It’s not an event any more. It’s just a new serial, like many others that came and went.

For ‘event launches’, we will need exceptionally differentiated content. Will ’24′ be the answer? Let time decide.

This post first appeared on mxmindia.com, on my weekly column ‘TV Trail’

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About Shailesh Kapoor

Founder & CEO - Ormax Media. Film Lover. Media Insights Detective. Budding Author. Lifelong Student.
This entry was posted in Hindi GECs, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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