Shailesh Kapoor: Time to Redefine ‘General Entertainment Channel’?

07 Nov,2014

By Shailesh Kapoor


Though largely an uneventful year for Indian television content, 2014 has seen some channel launches, after almost four years of status quo. Zee launched Zindagi mid-year, followed by Sony’s launch of its third GEC Sony Pal, and later this month, Epic goes on-air. We all know that Zee has its second (or third, if you count Zindagi) GEC in the incubator.


Classically, back in the 90s, a channel was called a GEC (General Entertainment Channel) if it had something for everyone in the family. It was “general” enough to have a mix of content that should cater to a fairly generalized collective need. The term GEC is India-specific and was perhaps coined by the advertiser community to give a handle to the set of mass channels that existed at that time.


Over time, as the number of ‘GECs’ increased, advertisers and planners started using GEC 1 and GEC 2 as reference terms for the top ranked and second tier GECs.


However, look at things closely the way they exist today, and you would know that it’s time to question all the parlance surrounding the term ‘GEC’. Here are some thoughts, for example:


1. Zindagi’s offering is anything but ‘general’. In fact, it’s a very differentiated, specialized-content based channel. Even if it did 100 GRPs, could it ever be called a ‘General’ Entertainment Channel with such content?


2. The same argument applies with even more force to Epic, where the offering is catering to a content need that’s incredibly sharp and therefore, irrespective of its audience size, niche.


3. Sab TV’s content filter (light-hearted family entertainment) is very specific as well.


4. More than 95% original programming time on Star Plus today goes to fiction content targeting women audiences. Is that ‘general entertainment’?


5. Movie premieres, that were a core part of the GEC offering in the 90s, are now increasingly being seen on movie channels instead. Does that make the GECs less ‘general’?


It may seem a matter of semantics, but the implications of these semantics can be substantive. By clubbing all channels airing fiction and non-fiction content as ‘General Entertainment Channels’, we have created artificial segmentation of the content market. Channel V today is far more general in its offering than Sab TV is. But because it was historically a music platform, it has clubbed into another artificial category: Youth GECs!


Now all this would not matter if the cost of getting 1% audience to watch your ad on all channels were the same. But it is not. CPRP (Cost Per Rating Point) wildly fluctuates across these artificial categories. GECs have a distinctive advantage over most other Indian language channels in this regard. And this advantage borders on being unfair.


BARC can do well to discourage this artificial segmentation by not providing any of these handles (GEC, Youth GEC, etc.) in their planning tools, and even prohibit their data bureaus, as and when they come up, from doing the same.


And while I wait for that to happen, I leave you with a question: Think hard and name the one Indian channel that you think has the most ‘general’ entertainment to offer to the country at large. Ask the question around too. Some of the answers may surprise you.


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