Shailesh Kapoor: Weekend For Everyone, Weak-End For Television?

13 Apr,2013

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Weekend. End of a long, often tiring, week. Those two days (only one for many, though) that everyone looks forward to. That time of the week when you want to relax and rejuvenate, before another long, often tiring, week begins.

 

Weekends seem to be tailor-made for television. After all, entertainment and rejuvenation options are fairly limited for audiences at large in India. Only about 15 percent of urban India visits theatre even once in three months. Mall picnics are not a luxury everyone can afford in equal measure either. Good food and good television are therefore the two pillars on which a typical urban Indian’s rejuvenation plans should logically stand.

 

The food part holds good, but as far as television is concerned, far from it! Weekends have proved to be the bane of television channels for more than a decade now. Very rarely do weekend shows touch the viewership highs of the weekday hits. What makes it more complex is that these shows (mostly celebrity-based reality formats) are several times more expensive than their weekday counterparts.

 

Even as original content struggles, genres led by secondary content, such as Hindi movies, continue to flourish on the weekend. However, even here, the weekend to weekday ratio of viewership is not as high as it used to be a decade ago.

 

So what gives? It’s the F-word that can be used to explain many trends in the television business today – Fragmentation. In this case, it’s not just the fragmentation of the audience but also a fragmentation of content.

 

As a viewer, I have struggled with weekend viewing for a while now. Channels seem to lose their core identity (often for the right reasons, it can be argued) on the weekends. Fiction-led housewife-targeted brands suddenly target males and kids with their marquee reality formats. News is trying to talk to a younger, more flippant audience on the weekends. Youth channels unleash an onslaught of reality shows that will then repeat more than a dozen times during the week. It’s all happening everywhere, but the pattern is not easy to map.

 

The audience fragmentation is another challenge in itself. The remote control patterns are disturbed. It would have been much simpler if the remote simply shifted to the men. But even that’s not the case. It keeps shifting between various family members through the day, and in no structured pattern that can be replicated across the country. Every market, in fact every household, seems to behave differently. The homogeneity of weekday viewing patterns is replaced by daunting complexity that the heterogeneity of weekends offers.

 

The popular myth that people are not at home on weekends is of course not true. Even the TV viewership levels don’t reflect that. It’s the choice of content that makes it the weak-end broadcasters would much rather not have on their FPCs.

 

However, there is a formula that has passed the test of time. It may not apply for relatively niche genres, but for mass genres like GECs and movies, it works beautifully. Targeting the 14-15 year old kid in the family, with content he/ she can enjoy with his parents, is the key. In many ways, the complexity of weekend television can be succinctly handled by narrow-targeting this segment.

 

Zee TV has mastered this art over time, with various reality shows. CID has been a long-running success on Sony on the same lines. Remember, targeting 14-15 year olds does not mean the protagonists have to be of that age. It’s more content tastes that I speak of.

 

The danger, like always, lies in over-simplification and stereotyping this audience, and treating them as “kids”. I chose the age carefully when I said “14-15”. 11-12 will be too young and 17-18 too old.

 

But if a mass channel can deeply understand the viewing mind of this in-between TG (which no one researches because it’s on the cusp of two TAM segments), it will open new doors packed with opportunity goodies for a weekend feast!

 

 

Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor

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