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Will `Gudiya' decide Zee News rating?

Jayanta Mallick
Nithya Subramanian

Kolkata/New Delhi , Sept. 24

EIGHT-MONTH pregnant Gudiya's dilemma was in having to choose between two husbands and securing the future of her unborn child - a situation that had all the makings of a tragedy.

For Zee News, it was an unscripted programme that evolved as a follow-up to a well publicised news of return from Pakistani custody, a Kargil war hero finding his wife already married to someone else. But at the end of the one-hour unique tele-event, Zee News metaphorically rebuilt a "doll's house" by reuniting Gudiya with her first husband Arif, till recently a missing PoW since the Kargil war and may well have hit the bull's eye from an `television rating points' perspective, according to the news channel.

For the uninitiated, the channel "facilitated" an on-camera panchayat session, with Gudiya as herself, Arif, and Taufiq, her second husband, in the presence of priests and relatives. She, through a consensus achieved at the anchored programme, returned to Arif, who took responsibility for the unborn child. Zee Telefilms officials said the force of the unfolding real life drama and sheer impact of viewers' response to a unique media action guided the programme, aired live on Tuesday by Zee News.

Ms Alka Saxena, Programming Head of the Zee News channel, said that this show was not pre-planned. "We invited Gudiya and the others for a show on Mumbai. Gudiya was keen on an early resolution of the vexed problem and asked us if we could facilitate the decision-making process. Generally, media do not undertake such an exercise," she added.

But Ms Saxena said the programme has generated overwhelming viewership interest. Moved by the flow of SMS mail, the news channel received before the programme was evolved and congratulatory calls received after it was aired, the news channel is also awaiting the TAM India's viewership data. "Not only we got calls from viewers in Mumbai and Lucknow, but all major cities in the Hindi speaking belt as also from Pakistan and Bangladesh."

For the number of viewers drawn by the programme, one may have to wait for at least 10 days, observed Mr G. Krishnan, CEO of TV Today Network, which owns Hindi news channel Aaj Tak.

He, however, wondered if a freak event could set a trend or become a money-spinning proposition.

Ms Saxena said that for the impromptu programme, the number of ad breaks were halved. Normally there are two during a half-hour bulletin. "During this special show, we had just one ad break," the Zee official said.

"From the business perspective, success of this kind of one-time programme is yet to be tested. There is hardly any precedent to this in the history of TV programming. Advertisers too may not want to sponsor a programme which draws sticky eyeballs," Mr Krishnan observed. However, according to industry analysts, the event may improve the image of the channel among viewers in the sub-continent. According to TAM India's data (available for 13 weeks to September 4, 2004 covering the cable and satellite homes in cities with over one lakh population, in the Hindi speaking belt), Aaj Tak was the leader with 29 per cent marketshare followed by NDTV India with 21 per cent share. Zee News was on the third spot with 15 per cent share of the Hindi news channel viewers.

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