Marketing Entertainment in the Idiot Box
by: Not-Just-Marketing, Marketing Cell at NMIMS
You are walking down the aisles of a mall next door; you fill your cart with whatever you can grab. You wonder why the whole mall looks like a scene out of the idiot box and proceed to the payment section. And what do you find? Voila! Hrithik Roshan, all decked up, standing across the billing counter, asking you to watch his latest show on Star TV. Beware! Don’t pass it off as a gag, the day is not far away when stars you see on the tube get to this extent of ‘in the face’ marketing.
Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark:
The advent of satellite television in India was a trade off in every sense of the word. The country had just broken the shackles of protectionist policies and fuelled its growth with LPG (Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization) but there were sceptics about the potential of the Indian market.
The opened gates facilitated the entry of global players like Star Network and CNN to enter the Indian Territory. But the player who really rose during this period was Zee Television. This baby of Subhash Chandra took the Indian households by storm by its fresh programming, youthful content and high entertainment quotient. Doordarshan finally was seeing the rise of a nemesis and this called for it to pull up its socks.
Zee Television or fondly called Zee TV had very interesting programming content. They covered the entire gamut of entertainment appetite of the Indian home and thus kept people glued to television. They were very successful in marketing programs to the viewers by raising the bar of the production costs of the shows. The real strength lay in the freshness of the content and the changed approach to presentation. The programs shifted from the cliché family setup to more youth centric programs, a change that clearly reflected India’s demographic transition as well. As far as the marketing of the programs is concerned, they were restricted to advertisements on the channels itself but with good repetition value to evoke an interest in the audience. Thus, Zee undoubtedly caught the fancy of a nation that was slowly shifting to cable television from the old legacy of Doordarshan.
You come, you watch and you conquer.
Star network’s foray into the Indian Market is interesting as they started with a JV with Zee TV. Star Plus presented English shows whereas Zee clearly captured the space in the minds as well as the television space of the viewers in the Hindi segment. Thus, Star Plus had a pretty slow start across the country except in metros. They soon realized this and started to focus on Hindi programming after the split with Zee with interesting series like Star Bestsellers, Tu Tu Main Main, Saaya, Kora Kagaz which catered to the entertainment buds of the entire family. But the real jackpot came in 2000 with the launch of two of the biggest shows on Indian Television- Kaun Banega Crorepati and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi bahu Thi.
These two shows were prime movers in many ways for Indian Television. Kaun Banega Crorepati was instrumental in bringing the biggest star of Indian Cinema Mr. Amitabh Bachchan to the small screen. This was a big change for the television audience and a sufficient alluring factor to be glued to their TV sets. The trend of Bollywood resorting to the idiot box became both frequent and prominent after this.
Kyunki has had a major role to play in how Indian Television has shaped in the new millennium. This brainchild of Ekta Kapoor and her team set the ball rolling for a flurry of incessant Saas Bahu dramas on television. What started as a novelty factor of entertainment started became stale drama within years due to an overdose. But they managed to garner high TRP’s for themselves and run for years on the trot.
Sony Entertainment Television
Sony Entertainment played the role that Rahul Dravid played in the Indian cricket team with Star (Sachin) being the juggernaut grabbing all the attention and Zee (Saurav Ganguly) occupying a close place in people’s hearts. And so, Sony could never actually stay a winner all the way, but has always been a tough competitor in the General Entertainment Category. They have been responsible for introducing many innovative ideas in their programming as well as marketing. Shows like CID, Aahat, Boogie Woogie, Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi, Indian Idol, Jhalak Dikhla Jaa and now KBC are testimony of the fact that SET has always tried to offer something new to their audience.
SET has played a very smart role of being a front runner for Movie Premieres on TV, Award Shows like Filmfare etc. which gets them good TRPs. Their extended channels of SET Max and SAB and now PIX have been avenues to consolidate their position across categories.
There has been a flood of channels which have come up catering to the specific entertainment appetite of the audience. Lifestyle Channels like NDTV Good Times and NDTV Travel and Living, Music Channels like MTV, Channel V and 9XM, Movie Channels like Star Movies, HBO, Sony Pix, Zee Studio, WB and a family entertainment channel like SAB TV are responses one sees from the changing consumer insights one sees coming in the society.
The current setup sees very high production costs as well innovative marketing strategies to grab the eyeballs of the viewers. The slew of reality shows has in fact blurred the distinction even more between stars and the common man.
The entertainment channels took a big leap by bringing in Bollywood stars to the screens at home. They took an even bigger leap by catering to every kind of audience apiece with an out and out channel: be it a school going kid, a teenager, homemaker, entrepreneur, sportsperson, musician and the list goes on.
Television and Advertising
There are two sides to this coin, it can help the brand market themselves across sectors and mark their presence, but at the same time, priorities might get diluted with a diverse portfolio in the kitty.
What is to be borne in mind is that the attention of the audience today, all thanks to digital TV viewing, cannot be held for long time periods. The advertising has to undergo a shift in its trend with communication to the audience spread across a large set of channels and across multiple media platforms.
The primetime being cluttered by advertising content would only lead to confusing the viewer and more often than not, he would end up not retaining the matter. Over years, advertising would have to increasingly look at non prime time bands. Acceptance of TV into a wider spectrum of segments would ensure value for money for the ad spends. The key to enhancing audience and additional revenues in the coffers is multiple repeat strategies by the broadcasters.
The advertising, the entertainment, the stars, the money are all so far so good but for the sheen to continue, much more raking would have to be put in. To say that the market is booming, a look at the numbers in both the urban and rural population might make it sound otherwise. The sheer size of the TV advertisement industry which amounts to 66 billion is quite small compared to other sectors like software or telecom. Though we have good numbers in terms of the viewers in the country, the 150 million homes in rural India have not really been tapped into. Only one third of the homes have TVs. Cable TV has even less accessibility with only 10 to 12 channels in the pool. The underlying problem of no access to electricity in villages is another deterrent to the reach of entertainment channels.
Does the onus again fall over the government then? Nobody knows. Wait and watch how the entertainment channels rule the roost over the coming years: it is what we can do for now.
By: Kumudini Manda and Krishnakant Jonnalgadda, NMIMS, Mumbai