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Hindi GECs brace for OTT challenge

According to media consulting firm Ormax, about 23 million individuals, or 8% of the 15-plus urban TV universe got initiated into watching original content on streaming platforms for the first time during the lockdown and 57% of these were women, the primary target for GECs. (Indranil Bhoumik/Mint)

The segment is facing big challenges both in terms of technology and content options that video streaming platforms offer

The Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) category is bracing for a major churn despite 22% growth in viewership in major markets last year mainly due to the prolonged covid-induced lockdown that had forced most people to remain indoors.

The genre has gained from family-centric content but is facing twin challenges of technology and the variety in content offered by video streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

According to media consulting firm Ormax, about 23 million people, or 8% of the urban television watching population above 15 years, switched to original content on streaming platforms for the first time during the lockdown with 57% of them being women, the primary target for GECs.

Unaided awareness (UA) of top Hindi GEC shows in their launch week has more than halved in the past decade, according to Ormax. UA is a percentage measure of audience who can name a show when asked to cite upcoming or recent offerings, based on primary surveys carried out by the firm across the country periodically.

“One can be tempted to attribute the trend of dropping awareness levels to the increase in media clutter, especially because of the arrival of digital platforms, such as social media and streaming apps. But that will only be a red-herring argument to deflect attention from a genuine concern the Hindi GEC category faces: that of reduced viewer excitement because of half a decade of under-delivery vis-à-vis expectations,” Ormax said in a blog on 4 March, adding that UA for Hindi films dropped only 8% in the same time period (2010-15 versus 2016 onwards).

Nina Elavia Jaipuria, head, Hindi and kids TV network at Viacom18 Media Pvt Ltd that owns channels like Colors, feels that TV and OTT platforms are intertwined and will continue to co-exist in an increasingly ‘and’ market.

TV is still a medium for the masses and stories have to weave in drama, romance and social issues along with bits of family dynamics, she said. Companies like theirs, Jaipuria added, make sure their content is platform agnostic so viewers can watch stories where they want to. Shows like Bigg Boss that have exclusive, paywalled content for OTT, often before television, are thriving online and on social media, she said.

Shailesh Kapoor, CEO and founder, Ormax, admitted catch-up viewing is still a relatively niche segment with TV remaining a family medium but there has been a steady 10-15% increase in online viewing of GEC shows year-on-year, and last year was higher at about 20-25%.

According to advertising monitoring and information agency TAM Media Research Pvt, Ltd, while the overall advertising volume for the Hindi GEC genre rose only 4% since the pre-covid period, it declined by 4% post last year’s festive period.

The way forward will be for a consumer to choose between an over-the-top (OTT) service or a direct-to-home (DTH) subscription, which will be the real challenge for a service provider, said Mehul Gupta, co-founder and CEO at SoCheers, an independent digital agency.

Meanwhile, Shailesh Kapoor, CEO and founder, Ormax, said online viewing of GEC shows has been growing 10-15% annually, which accelerated to a 20-25% increase in 2020.

Shekhar Banerjee, chief client officer and head, West, Wavemaker India, added that the increasing base of connected TV in India, close to 18-20 million, also needs to be accounted for. “So often a show watched on connected TV gets mis-attributed, consumers don’t even realize if they watched it on the streaming or through cable connection,” Banerjee said, adding that, overall, the GEC genre has lost close to 5% reach point compared to pre-covid period.

“We have seen an increase in consumption of general entertainment content on both platforms, wherein viewers share their dining tables and living rooms with our stories on television and then stretch it across multiple screens, platforms and interactions, binging on it through time and space,” said Prathyusha Agarwal, chief consumer officer, ZEE. As a result, Agarwal said, the company creates extensions of its TV shows on digital in the form of wrap-around content as highlights, premiere episodes and gamification through its gaming app ZEE5 Super Family League besides crossovers from TV to OTT building on shows like Jamai Raja and Qubool Hai.

Broadcast Networks Star and Sony did not respond to Mint’s queries. Mint

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