TV Impact: The 5 Big Misses since Sky changes

Lakh Baddhan

Senior Editor


In our special TV Impact series on , media executive and founder of , Raj Baddhan looks closely at how UK Asian TV broadcasters have reacted to the recent Sky changes.

Last week, we focused on the Top 5 Hits amongst TV channels since the changes took place in August. This week, we’re turning our attention to the five shocking disappointments that have surprised not just the channels themselves but also the industry as a whole.

Star Plus, ZEE TV, Sony Entertainment Television and Colors are India’s four leading Hindi general entertainment channels, with competition between the four intense as ever in the UK market. While, Star Plus leads the chart by a mile, Sony TV and Colors have been fighting it out at No.2 and ZEE TV remains at a distance. We look more in detail at the TV channels that have failed to leave an impression during the August – October sample period.

The UK’s first Asian satellite broadcaster, has been perceived as the biggest player since its launch in the early 90s. Its successful and novel subscription model, which initially saw a number of ZEE channels bundled up together, gave the network the upper hand over its rivals. However, when competition came in the shape of Sony B4U in the early 2000 period, followed by Star Plus’ launch on Sky, with its basic subscription arrangement with Sky, ZEE started to feel the heat. However, the perception of the ZEE TV brand being the biggest in the UK Asian TV market remained.

While other rivals such as Sony TV, B4U Movies, ARY Digital collaborated with bundles like Sony Mix, followed by VIEWASIA, ZEE Network still seemed undeterred. There were also talks in the industry at the time of ZEE and Sony teaming up for the VIEWASIA bundle but talks failed over how the profits were going to be split.

Eventually, ZEE did give in, by joining the likes of Sony TV, ARY Digital and B4U Movies for the beleaguered, Sky Asia Pack. A concept, which not only lacked enthusiasm but also failed as far as subscription numbers were concerned. The closure of the Sky Asia Pack led to the current set-up of Asian TV channels being offered in the Sky basic pack resulting in the four big Indian TV broadcasters Star Plus, ZEE TV, Sony TV and Colors competing in the same bundle for the first time in UK.

The changes also for the first time paved way for official BARB viewing data for the likes of ZEE TV and Sony TV, which up until then based their output solely on perception, being the first to launch in the UK market. So while it was known that ZEE TV made a satisfactory start in UK ratings during the “test phase” of being available in the Sky Original Pack in August, no one had expected the numbers to be so small. But many gave ZEE TV the benefit of the doubt and waited a few weeks for the broadcaster to start its marketing message. When ZEE TV did go full throttle with its blitz in August, it did so with its (not so) ‘ZEECRET’ campaign. Eventually, the broadcaster unveiled the ‘ZEECRET’ was the ZEE channels being available as a part of the Sky pack, which more than the viewers, got the industry talking about why a campaign was devised, when the news of the Sky Original Pack was already public a month prior to the changes. This campaign along with the ‘All ZEE, No Fee’ pushed the ZEE brand, with not much emphasis on the network’s content. When days passed and numbers remained considerably low, ZEE TV decided to change track by focusing on its big ticket shows ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’, ‘Kumkum Bhagya’ and ‘Kundali Bhagya’ – but was this too late? Rival channels – Sony TV and Sony MAX had already made a lot of noise with ‘Mere Sai’, ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ and its cricket acquisition, which generated to bigger numbers than ZEE TV and ZEE Cinema.

Attempts to lap up viewership have so far proved futile with fictions like ‘Piyaa Abela’, ‘Woh Apna Sa’, ‘Kundali Bhagya’ and ‘Jeet Gayi Toh Piya Morey’ initially showing signs of working but have since deflated. ‘Kumkum Bhagya’, which rates as one of the leading shows in India, has so far flopped in UK ratings. While ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’ did do better for ZEE TV UK but was unable to sustain its viewership by the time the final emerged earlier this month.

ZEE TV attempted on a number of occasions over the past three months to focus on various elements in its marketing strategies:

2. All ZEE, No Fee
3. ZEE TV corporate branding change

The 360 degrees marketing has also included radio campaigns, email newsletters, social media and more recently text message updates to drive viewers to the channel. As well as the above, ZEE TV reportedly spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to tie up with the the biggest events in the UK including summer melas, local events and the recently held Da-Bangg UK Tour. While, everyone is familiar with the ZEE brand, the important message of ZEE being available in the Sky Original Pack has got lost somewhere. Its now four months since the changes have taken place, ZEE TV’s weekly reach hovers around the 200,000 mark, compared to double of that for Sony TV and Colors. Star Plus is far ahead.

Could it also be that ZEE TV is unable to compete with the other Indian big guns due to standard definition output? It’s rivals stand out with HD qualify output, which ZEE TV has been mulling over to launch, whether it does remains to be seen.

During the first three months of the changes, ZEE TV has had some good moments with movies like ‘Dangal’ and ‘Dear Zindagi’ doing well in the channel’s Sunday afternoon slots, while the recently launched ‘Khaki’ during weekends has potential. Recently, ZEE Rishtey Awards also did well for the channel but overall, ZEE TV’s numbers have remained lukewarm.

Recently, in what looked like a knee jerk reaction to the low ratings, ZEE TV decided to change its weekday programming schedule, which saw fictions starting at 18:00 up until 22:00 and the re-run of ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’ in the 22:00 slot. So far, the decision has met with an adverse reaction, with numbers falling further.

While some may say it still early days (which it is), ZEE TV has certainly surprised many with its numbers, while rival Sony TV has captured the UK market in a bigger way – would that be down to marketing or better content? One thing’s for sure, ZEE TV is not the one to give up – being one of the oldest players, ZEE TV will surely be planning its next move and after the tepid response its recent marketing campaigns have received, it will no doubt re-evaluate its strategy.

Geo Kahani
Geo Kahani replaced Geo Tez in August, during the busiest time for the UK Asian TV market. It could have got lost in the clutter of Sky changes but Geo Kahani has gained some loyal viewership.

While initially it seemed the channel was on to a winner with its off-beat selection of shows, Geo Kahani has since disappointed. The channel’s popular show ‘Adhoori Maa’ in the 21:00 slot gave it the edge, even beating sister channel, Geo TV on several occasions but its not been able to maintain its viewership.

As a secondary service to Geo TV, Geo Kahani still remains above rivals, Urdu 1 Europe and A Plus Europe.

MTV Beats
A huge marketing blitz, including a lavish launch party was held in Central London for MTV Beats. With a different packaging to market leader, B4U Movies, MTV Beats without VJ interruptions and ad-free music playlists, seemed like a winning formula but its taking longer than expected to pick up in UK ratings.

Even though current weekly reach figures state the channel is over the 100,000 mark, its average weekly reach has hovered around the 60,000 mark. Its weekly reach had also been beaten on a couple of occasions surprisingly by Sony Mix, which is yet to go out to promote the channel. MTV Beats has spent thousands of pounds on its marketing and thus it was expected the channel would do better than it is doing. Could it be that the channel needs to expand its playlist and focus less on repeats?

Once the UK’s biggest surprise in television ratings. Rishtey has fallen considerably from its hey day. Not helped by its recent Sky change from being a free-to-air service to a subscription service, Rishtey lags behind other channels. Its weekly reach has fallen by half to around 250,000 viewers but it still holds stronger than the likes of ZEE TV, Star Utsav and Geo TV.

The question, which will be asked is whether there is still a need for a catch-up service like Rishtey in today’s time when so many original shows are being aired so freely than previously. Some of the older shows being aired on Rishtey are also widely available online, so are viewers turning to other channels as their form of entertainment?

A Plus Europe
The Pakistani entertainment channel launched with much fanfare earlier this year but with its one year anniversary approaching in January, A Plus Europe still lags behind as one of the least watched Pakistani channels in the UK. The channel shares the bottom spot with Urdu 1 Europe, even though the latter has seen a rise in UK ratings, A Plus Europe is yet to make its mark.

When it first launched, A Plus Europe attempted to lure viewers with its coverage of the Pakistan Super League, followed by big fiction launches and the re-run of classic shows such as ‘Mera Naam Yousuf Hai’. Even though, the changes worked to an extent, the channel has been clinging on to viewers. It has unable to match the success of other big Pakistani entertainment channels, which is dominated by Hum TV, Geo TV and Geo Kahani in the UK. Could it be that show concepts and stories have been unable to connect with viewers or is it the case of marketing not sending out the right message for the channel?

Others worth mentioning:
ZEE Cinema – With the exception of films like ‘Mom’, ‘Dear Zindagi’ and more recently ‘Jab Harry Met Sejal’ doing well for the channel, ZEE Cinema seems to be constantly competing with B4U Movies for third place. While Sony MAX and Star Gold have proved firm favourites, ZEE Cinema has unable to hold on to viewers despite having the biggest movie library in the Indian television industry.

Colors – If it wasn’t for ‘Bigg Boss 11’, Colors would have been facing a challenging time in UK ratings. Just prior to the reality TV’s launch, Colors had fallen in numbers after it decided to go behind the encryption window on the Sky platform. When ‘Bigg Boss 11’ ends in January, the industry will be watching closely to see how Colors performs.

Star Utsav – With the channel’s future up in the air in the UK market, Star Utsav continues to disappoint in UK ratings. The channel is under pressure after falling behind some of the smaller independent channels in the UK.

Next Week: Look at the Top 5 looming changes in the UK Asian TV industry