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Bollywood takes on IPL to bat for tv channels
Entertainment channels see a 10 to 30 per cent drop in viewership during prime time because of the cricket mania.

With the third season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) slated from March, a big chunk of the television audience is expected to tune in to the matches that would take up most of March and April.

Prime time (8pm-11pm) viewership of all TV entertainment channels, in fact, drops by 10 to 30 per cent, depending on popularity of shows. So, general entertainment channels (GECs) are not taking any chances this year. They are busy chalking out strategies to combat the drop by introducing new shows and beefing up their content. They have lined up close to 12 new shows for launch by March 2010.

For instance, Star India — which witnessed a 10 per cent drop in viewership during IPL 2009 — thinks the best way to combat IPL is Bollywood. On six Saturdays during the IPL season, Star will air Bollywood blockbusters like Paa, Rann, Wanted, and Alaadin.

“Since Bollywood and cricket attract maximum Indian viewers, we decided to combat cricket frenzy with Bollywood. We would host six events on six Sundays that would see the who’s who of Bollywood. Aamir Khan, who has not performed for the last 10 years, would be seen on stage along with the other Khans and leading Bollywood actresses,” says Kevin Vaz, executive vice-president of advertising and sales, Star India.

For weekday prime time shows, Star India will build on high points which they expect would hold viewer’s interest and curiosity till the next episode. It is also introducing at least three new soaps before the IPL season begins this year to build viewership in advance. Star India network reaches 130 million households while the Hindi GEC reaches 90 million.

Danish Khan, marketing head of Sony Entertainment Television (SET) India, concurs: “We saw 15-20 per cent drop in viewership during IPL matches last season. So, this year we have decided to have more repeat telecasts of our prime time shows, to be aired before IPL matches start in the evening.”

Khan also believes that TV channels see consumers of different profiles tuning in during IPL every year. “New viewers who do not watch regular soaps on television tune in and surf channels during commercials. Some of them can later on become regulars, so this is also an opportunity for us,” adds Khan.

But IPL would also be telecasted in multiplexes this year which means that a lot of consumers would be out of home for longer. “SET India reaches 50 million homes and compared to that multiplex-going crowd is much less. So it does not worry us,” claims Khan.

NDTV Imagine, too, is announcing two new shows in March, a week before IPL starts. Nikhil Madhok, vice-presidennt of marketing, NDTV Imagine, says “women-centric soaps find more viewers than an all-family entertainment drama”.

NDTV Imagine was launched in 2008 and because its base is small it did not see a dip in viewership during the last two IPL seasons. This year, however, it is looking to prop up offerings, to avoid any drop in viewership.

Meanwhile, though children’s entertainment channels do not see a big drop in viewership during IPL, these channels are not taking any chances. Nick India, for instance, will launch “watch-and-win” shows in March.

Nina Elavia Jaipuria, vice-president and general manager, Nick India, says: “In March we will introduce watch-and-win shows so that children tune in to our channel to win goodies. Also, by April, summer vacation will start when viewership on our channel goes up by 10-20 per cent to touch 200 minutes of viewership per individual per week.” Nick India reaches 27 million homes.

Krishna Desai, director-programming (South Asia), Turner International India, says “Kids’ channels’ shares actually saw a growth during IPL season in 2008 (7 per cent) and 2009 (4 per cent). But the English movie genre during IPL season 2009 took a dip of 16 per cent.”

This year, beginning 15 March, Turner will launch “WB 20TWENTY”, and the franchise will offer four weeks of entertainment and action featuring 20 titles such as Ocean’s 11, Devil’s Advocate, The Perfect storm, Syriana, Cellular, among others, on weeknights at 11 pm, right after the cricket match.

Disney, too, is looking at introducing new shows and build interactivity through its website during the IPL season which also coincides with the summer vacation in schools. A spokesperson for Disney says the April to June season is big for the channel. Dinsey believes that prime time for children during vacation shifts to morning and afternoons and not only evenings when IPL matches are held. As a result, it may not see drop in viewership.

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