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Prime-time toss-up in living rooms

Nithya Subramanian

NEW DELHI, April 2

PRIME-TIME programming remains a gamble. And entertainment channels resort to different permutations and combinations to attract audiences. So, if Star Plus relies on game shows in the 9-10 p.m. time band, Sony doles out saas-bahu soaps.

Zee too has undertaken some programming changes. The channel, which has pitted its hopes on family histrionics, has pushed its `Choti Maa' out of the 9-9.30 p.m. slot to the 10-10.30 p.m. time band. These have been replaced by game show `Nilaam Ghar-Bid Bid Boom' on Mondays and Tuesdays. Also, the popular music talent show `Sa Re Ga Ma' will make reappearance with a new host, pop singer Shaan, as the new celebrity show `Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai'.

Mr Partha Pratim Sinha, Director, Marketing, Zee Telefilms Ltd, said: "We have shortened the frequency of soaps. `Choti Maa' and `Kohi Apna Sa', which ran from Monday through Friday, will now appear only four times a week. Instead, we will introduce half-hour game shows from 9-9.30 p.m., so that kids can also watch. We want the kids watching."

But according to a media planner, "We all know that Zee's programming revamp has not really taken off. The channel will definitely try different options in the hope that it will be able to make a dent among audiences."

Mr Sameer Nair, Head of Programming, Star India, said, "As far as we are concerned, primetime between 8-11 p.m. is time for family viewing. Between 8-8.30 p.m. the audiences could be somewhat younger, but after that it is the family that watches TV."

Media planners told Business Line that at one level since it was the family which watched TV during primetime, media planning and buying would become relatively easy. "But among the primetime programmes, there is really no data or research available on who is watching what," said Mr Rohinton Maloo, Director, MediaScope Associates.

He added that viewership trends were unpredictable across the world. But since India was a one-television-per-household market, the problem would be accentuated. "Programming will continue to be done through the trial-and-error method in general entertainment channels," said Mr Maloo.

The stakes in primetime programming are very high. According to a top Mumbai-based media planner, out of the Rs 3,600-crore ad pie, three-fourths is garnered by seven-eight players (mainly the general entertainment channel and a few regional players). "And a substantial portion of this is spent on the three-hour primetime. Therefore, it is essential for TV to grow beyond primetime," he added.

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