Sony should be in sweat. Over the past seven weeks, Zee TV, which has been No 3 amongst general entertainment channels, has managed to close in on No 2 Sony and even edge past it, according to TAM data.
According to TAM Data, the week ended 4 December 2005 saw Sony at 11.7 per cent all day share, as compared to Zee TV at 13.5 per cent. By the week ended 15 January 2006, Sony was at 12.4 per cent, but Zee TV was at 17.7 per cent.
On prime time, though, Sony is still ahead of Zee TV, so market watchers are reluctant to declare a shift in positions just yet. But: "The battle has just begun and a lot of ground has to be covered," says Ashish Kaul, senior vice-president, corporate brand development, Essel Group.
Zee has scored on the 7:30-8 pm slot, Monday to Friday, where it is far ahead of Sony. Content wise, Zee is doing well with Saat Phere and Sa Re Ga Ma Pa.
"We have been in an investment mode for the last two quarters. There has been an effort to spruce up all fronts - programming, sales, promotion and communication," says Kaul, "The greater challenge now lies in sustaining the performance."
Media planners have taken note. Says Nandini Dias, vice-president, Lodestar Media, "Ratings of Sony have fallen from the last quarter, and advertisers who have signed long term deals with the channel will now be looking at other avenues. Overall, audiences are currently in experimentation mode."
Zee, for its part, is ready with a strong lineup of new formats including Business Baazigar, hosted by Zee-owner Subhash Chandra himself.
Should Sony, with Jassi flagging and Deal Ya No Deal a disappointment, be in panic mode? Yes, think some observers.
"The issue with Sony lately has been that whenever one tunes in to the channel," says a media professional, "a viewer either gets to see Indian Idol 2 or Deal Ya No Deal. Reality shows cannot become the staple diet of a general entertainment channel."
Zee, meanwhile, is going to town with the TAM data. Says Joy Chakraborthy, executive vice-president, network sales, Zee Network, "Advertisers over the last six-seven months have been very positive in their outlook and briefs to us."
Sony, however, sees the current phase as a blip. "Our ratings being down is just a temporary phase," asserts Rohit Gupta, executive vice-president, ad sales, and revenue management head, Sony, dismissing all talk of a change of ranks, "Zee's gain has come primarily from Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, which is coming to an end. Kam Ya Zyada has not performed.
All our deals with advertisers are long term, and this slight blip will not really affect us in terms of ad sales. Also, with Idols entering the gala round and Filmfare awards, Bunty aur Babli, The Rising all in the pipeline, our ratings should go up."Sounds like a return to its launch formula: cinema, cinema, cinema.