I saw strange bedfellows on the ET front page (at the office; I don’t get it at home) in the form of an ad which sported both Zee and STAR logos.
According to the ad, programming on GECs (Colors included) outperformed the IPL. A bit of slicing and dicing, as the market they had chosen was the Hindi Speaking Market (HSM), but that’s okay, for once.
Is a tale of too little, too late?
During season one of the IPL, STAR Plus had the ill-fated Paanchvi Pass pitted head on against the just-born. Paanchvi Pass bombed – and this was interpreted as the invincibility of the IPL.
Paanchvi Pass was a poor programme for Indian audiences – and would have bombed, IPL or no IPL.
The GECs, Bollywood, indeed all the entertainment options, waved the white flag and decided to abrogate the entire entertainment space to the IPL.
And, the next year, the monster that the just- born turned into was bigger; this year, it’s bigger still.
And the GECs discover that the monster is not as ferocious as they thought it to be.
It never was.
The coming together of the two channels for a common cause is more than a bit misplaced. The ad tells me nothing that I did not already know; media planners and advertisers receive TAM data week after week and have known the truth from Season 1 of the IPL.
What the IPL gives advertisers, which the GECs, especially in the light of the massive three-channel battle for the number one position cannot, is guaranteed viewership during the key month of April. Guaranteed viewership is not a proposition that the advertisers have the luxury to walk away from.
An ad such as this (and one wonders why the Colors logo is absent) has achieved nothing. It doesn’t even start a conversation – no one is interested in the topic.
What the GECs need to do is to get their boffins together and create programming that can get back audiences lost to the IPL. In the final analysis, it is the return of audiences which will divert advertising budgets back to the GECs in the crucial (and hitherto profitable) summer months.
It is not as if the GECs do not create winning programming. They need to, together, slot their big programme launches head on against the IPL. While the battle for the GEC crown continues (as I write this, I learn that Colors has slipped to #3 for the week) the bigger battle needs to be fought and won.
Not through communication and spin, but through a competence that the GECs have, time and again, proven that they possess: the ability to create programming that attracts eyeballs.
Next year, let’s see, in the month of February, a slew of announcements of new programming that goes directly against the IPL.
And let’s see how easy it is to sell IPL airtime. Let’s remember, the money today is chasing the guaranteed audiences that the IPL delivers. Cast doubts on the guarantee and the money will get wobbly.