NEW BREED: Daily serial Kittie Party featuring Poonam Dhillon and Kavita KapoorThe increasing pressure of low viewership has prompted Zee TV to make yet another major change in its programming. The channel is gradually discontinuing its weekly serials to make way for dailies (four or five days a week).
This gradual but certain change in the programming is being brought in phase by phase, without much ado. Beside the on-air dailies like Kohi Apna Sa, Kammal, Love Marriage and the brand new Kittie Party, two more are being introduced.
From September 9, two dailies, will be aired Lipstick at 11 pm and Aati Rahengi Baharein at 8.30 pm. Says Partha Sinha, director marketing Zee TV, Increasingly, dailies are becoming more of a habit among the audience. In Zees new programming approach prime time and afternoon slots will primarily consist of dailies.
Weekly serials like Justajoo are being wrapped up after a run of more than 50 episodes. However, what is crucial is that currently neither any weekly or daily is proving to be the proverbial golden egg for Zee.
Kohi Apna Sa, a daily Balaji Telefilms product aired at prime time may be one of their most watched serials but still does not feature anywhere in the top 20 watched programmes across all channels according to TAM TRP ratings. In fact none of the Zee programmes have received TRPs of more than 3, except for the recent airing of the blockbuster Gadar (on August 14) which got a rating of 4.5.
So the critical question is whether this programming shift delivers the channel from low TRPs. Also, why is it that winning formula serial makers, like Balaji Telefilms, are unsuccessful with Zee while they are bringing viewers to other channels? Could it have something to do with the production budgets that Zee affords its producers?
WEAKLY: Harsh Chayya in a scene from Justajoo that will go off air soonSays Sangita Sinha, producer of Zee serials like Hasratein, Gudgudee and Justajoo Zee has always paid less than other channels. The budgets are never extravagant. Amanat producer Sapna Bhattacharya, who has worked with the channel for five years, says, One had to compromise on the locations or sets and make both ends meet. Amanat started with a good budget because it had many characters. But later they could not increase the budget.
Manish Goswami, producer of the recently launched Kittie Party that has a bevy of established actors and projects the elite class of society, says, The budget is neither good nor bad.
The main difference observed between Zee and Star Plus programmes is the production quality with storylines, performances and actors being constant factors.
About five years ago, weekly producers worked with a budget of Rs 2.25 lakh per episode, which has barely doubled. Bhattacharya says that Rs 5 lakh per episode is a good estimation. With fees ranging above Rs 25,000 (per episode) for seasoned TV actors and increasing costs to provide the upmarket look to programmes, Zee producers are often in a losing proposition. Says Sinha, With Justajoo we covered only office expenses and made no profit.
Zee has been constantly making efforts to make a comeback post the Kaun Banega Crorepati phenomenon but very little has worked for them. Last August they scrapped a whole lot of serials and launched shows like Kohi Apna Sa, Razzmatazz, Dollar Bahu, Baazi Kiski, Aap Jo Bolein Haan to Haan, Neelamghar and Sarhadein which made no difference to its viewership. In March 2002, Zee launched Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai and Playwin, which did not turn a new leaf either.
While only speculations can be made about the reasons for Zees low period, it is certain that desperate times need desperate measures.