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Brands Jun 21, 2012

Beyond TRPs: Decoding the 'success' of Satyamev

By Anant Rangaswami

As we cross the half-way stage of the Aamir Khan starrer Satyamev Jayate on STAR Plus, the consumer, empowered by the newly learned acronym TRP, is busy talking about the 'success' and failure of the program in trains, at airports, in bars, restaurants, on Facebook and Twitter. Some consumers say it is a success, some dub it a failure.

What do media buyers think of the performance? Has it worked? Has it delivered?

Firstpost spoke to a range of experts to decode whether the program has worked or failed. What is common to their responses is that they see benefits beyond the simple TRP metric, pointing to the involvement, the buzz and PR, all of them difficult to measure.

Ravi Rao, CEO, Mindshare India sees Satyamev Jayate as a success. "It has delivered on the expectations on both counts, (though most people were hopeful that it would) break the TRP barrier. The content did create a good strong following, buzz and, in a way, provoked consumers to not just talk, but act, on real issues we face in the country."

"The real success is that SJ got some real social issues, even taboo topics, into living room discussions among households; and the buzz it generated across social media, newspapers and word of mouth cut across all segments. Yes, the only thing that went wrong was creating too much expectation (in the advertising and media industry)," Rao adds.

Photo credit: Raju Shelar/Firstpost

Lynn DeSouza looks at the non-TRP benefits. "SMJ is not the kind of program to be judged on the basis of ratings. Indeed it is more in the public broadcaster domain where social change, rather than viewer entertainment or commercial gain, is the motive. With the unprecedented combination of Aamir Khan as a host and distribution platform of all Star channels plus DD, it should have performed much better by traditional ratings measures. However there is a lot of non-measured viewership and impact that must surely be there," she says.

MEC's Shubha George doesn't think the program has done too well as far as viewerhip is concerned, but sees other benefits. "The really tricky thing is to separate the hype and the reality. The truth probably is that the performance lies somewhere in between the hyperbole of the media blitzkrieg and the indifferent television rating it has generated. It depends on whether we want to see the glass as half full or empty - it isn't as full as social and other media portray and not as empty as TAM suggests would be my take," she says.

However, she adds that, "the program is definitely a marketing, and, even more significantly, a PR success. In terms of content, I think while the attempt is admirable, it is perhaps a bit too templated which doesn't work when a viewer doesn't naturally connect with the social issue of the week. Also, the length of the program is a weakness. These weaknesses are probably the cause of falling viewership and low average ratings."

Anupriya Acharya, who heads Mindshare Fulcrum in India, took charge of her job after a long innings at Singapore. "I was just back from Singapore and still settling down so actually got TV going at home just a day before the SJ debut! As an average viewer, I did not have much expectations of the program apart from the fact that if Aamir was doing the show it would be meaningful. Turned out that the content was bold and to me, very refreshing. Some of the episodes though I must admit, I found too depressing for a Sunday morning (reality sucks I guess!); and so, have been on and off on episodes," she responds, more as a viewer than a media professional.

As a professional, she says, "It's a great concept with the right anchor choice. It's well thought-through; episodes are well researched, adequately represented by various stakeholders on the issue at hand, well moderated and well-paced. The PR and social leg is also well executed. Given the concept, it has naturally generated a lot of discussions, debates, views and if any of these lead to even some betterment of the society, it is all worth it. I hope it does not lose steam and more importantly is able to make a difference that can be showcased too."

Lynn de Souza however, is unhappy about the fact that each issue sees just a single NGO being tom-tommed. "I do not like the association with any one NGO per episode. That belittles the work of many other NGOs in that space and attracts funds to only one, though of course awareness objective is achieved. Star should have set up a Star Foundation to receive donations, with a monitoring system to distribute the funds."

Finally, we come to an issue which is being debated intensely in advertising and media circles. Has STAR, through SJ, created an 11 am slot?

"The days of time slots are gone. Consumers are active in different ways all through the day. Even SMJ may be telecast at 11 am but is in the social space 24X7," says de Souza. "Ratings show that it has indeed opened up well and while it might not totally 'create' or 'revive' the slot, it has and will surely make a difference. However, I think the objective is larger than just creating a slot viewership. It's in the area of larger social responsibility and in a way, I guess, Star's move to redefine thought leadership in the television arena. I hear that Star went all out on it and organized some viewings even in villages where there is no TV access. Now, that I would say is a great example of driving 'new users to the category' and not limiting to only 'creating a brand preference'," says Acharya.

It's the content, feels George. "As for a Sunday, 11a.m slot, I think people are choosing to watch Satyamev Jayate despite the timeslot and not because of it. If its replacement is not compelling enough, my guess is people will go back to doing whatever they did pre-SMJ," she says.

So what's the verdict? In a nutshell, media professionals seem to be happy with the TRP deliveries - and happier with the non-TRP deliveries. There's obviously more that could be done in terms of involving more NGOs in each sector. And, finally, the feeling is that the 11 am slot will do only as well as the content that is broadcast in the slot.

by Anant Rangaswami

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