Did you know that spiritual channels rival music channels in viewership? TAM data reveal that both religious and music channels currently contribute one per cent each to the total TV viewership pie. And for those who believe that spiritual channels are only for the older generation, a rethink is in order.
In terms of the audience profile, while 54 per cent of the viewers are above 35 years of age, 18 per cent range between 25-35 years, 17 per cent between 15-24 years and 11 per cent are in the age group of 4-14 years.
Mythological programmes on spiritual channels attract a lot of viewers from the 4-14 year age group, taking the overall share to 37 per cent.
"Early to bed; early to rise" also appears to be the dictum. The data reveal that the viewership of spiritual channels increases during the morning hours - between 4-7 pm, garnering a share of about nine per cent. While Aastha rules before sunrise, QTV's (Quran Television) share rises between 7-9 am. Besides, weekdays attract more traffic as compared to weekends across all religious channels.
The result is showing in the increase in adverting revenue. Today, a 10-second spot on a religious channel varies from Rs 350-1500 and 30 seconds cost approximately Rs 3000.
At this point of time, the revenue that this genre garners is around Rs 45-50 crores (Rs 450-500 million), but is expected to grow exponentially with the current trends of growth in reach and viewership. According to industry estimates, the advertising revenue - both slot and spot - should grow nearly by 75-100 per cent in the next two years.
Anil Anand, channel head, Zee Jagran explains, "The spiritual genre, of late, has been performing extremely well. Entrance of big broadcasters like Zee, a couple of years ago, has also impacted the overall size of the spiritual market. The channels are gaining significant eyeballs, and now can straighten their business model from only-slot sales to more-spot sales."
The data also revealed that 2005 saw a host of categories come on to religious channels that were not advertising from the period between 2000 and 2004. They include tyres, antiseptic creams, telecom service, cement, branded jewellery among many others. Anand notes that conventionally, spiritual channels catered to the 50-55 plus age groups.
However, newer initiatives include satvik food shows, talk shows, socio-spiritual movies, interactive tarot and astro shows, meditation and alternate healing programs, and programmes on Buddha, Kabir and Nanak - all that have helped to lower the average viewer age group to even 25-year-olds and even kids in some cases.
Kirit Mehta, CMD, Aastha, corroborates: "The percentage of younger audiences has dramatically increased in the last year. While in 2004, not even five per cent viewership was received in the 4-14 year age group, in 2005 the figure has risen to 20 per cent. Same is the case with the 15-35 year age group, which has jumped from 20 to 35 per cent in a year's time." He attributes the change in viewer profiles due to new breed of spiritual leaders emerging who also communicate in English.
Nandini Dias, vice-president, Lodestar Media, differs: "Religious programming fares well between 5-7:30 am. While most advertisers would not consider this genre on a day-to-day basis, the awareness and popularity of these channels seems to be on a rise."
Dias also notes that one drawback that religious channels generically suffer is the fact that although they are well populated in the morning, the audience is not in the product-buying mode at that hour. The other issue being the mindset of both media professionals as well as advertisers, who till date do not look at spiritual channels as a lucrative option.
Mehta admits that while perception of religious channels "is still an issue, efforts are being made to educate the media fraternity and advertisers on the performance and reach of this genre. The results of our efforts is now coming through as media planners and buyers are now taking congnisance of us".
Punitha Arumugam, CEO of Madison Media, west, adds that "Spiritual channels witnessed a surge in shares in the last two years. The year 2005 saw this genre reach its saturation. Also most advertisers shy away from spiritual channels as most of them do not want to associate their brand with a particular religion."Media experts opine that the genre will see a generation of more innovative content strategies, with new and big players stepping in to shape the genre similar to any other professional and organised genre in the market.