On 14 April,
Vijay TV, the third largest Tamil language channel, after Sun and Raj, joined the
entertainment bandwagon. Until then its contents had covered film, news and current
Now why would it go and do that, one may ask, when competition is fast demanding strong
differentiation? Couldn't this become a case of one too many?
S.D. Gurudutt, chief executive officer of Vijay Television Ltd, doesn't agree. "We
believe we are the most professionally-run channel, and we are offering packages never
seen in Tamil Nadu before. We now offer a mix of high quality prime-time programmes,
including serials of different genres -- family drama, love stories, horror, daily soaps,
He says Vijay TV is the first to commission serials in
Tamil Nadu. What's more, he says, Vijay TV gets much more involved with the production of
the serials it commissions than do other channels. That means tighter control on quality
and marketability. The positioning since re-launch is "for the young at heart".
The channel's 7.30 p.m. programming is for the youth. The channel has stepped into
countdown shows and game shows such as Maha Attam (wheel of fortune). "Today's
younger generation doesn't want to watch Tamil channels. We're changing that. We believe
we've given them good reason to watch." The good reason includes going for a
programme tie-up with MTV, which has managed to establish its own niche as a youth
"We're trying to do things differently," Mr Gurudutt says. "We're trying
to look different and are using a lot of English in our programming."
Besides slots for blockbuster films, Vijay TV has signed on Bala Chander to do12
telefilms. Mr Chander is also doing a prime-time Jay Leno kind of show called Nayyandi
Darbar. He's also doing morning shows on weekdays, where he talks of stories in
newspapers and analyses them. They even put Hariharan on a music show, the TRP (television
rating points) for which, claims Mr Gurudutt, touched 21. In that week, he claims, Sun's
highest TRP was 16. "But Sun generally has very high TRPs," he admits.
Afternoons on Vijay TV are reserved for women, as is the 11.30 slot on weekdays.
The entire shift to entertainment has been defined by
strong commercial reasons. As Mr Gurudutt says, "Tamil Nadu is one of the largest
FMCG markets, one of the biggest branded goods markets. The TV medium is used effectively
by advertisers -- around 30 per cent of the advertising is regional and local, and the
rest, national. The maximum revenues come from entertainment programmes."
Mr Gurudutt estimates that total ad revenue for TV channels in Tamil Nadu is around Rs
220 crore. Published reports, however, have carried the figure as being Rs 150-200 crore.
Significantly, Sun TV is the only Tamil channel he expects will touch Rs 100 crore in
revenues this year. In comparison, Vijay TV is hoping to do Rs 25 crore this year, up from
Rs 13.5 crore last year. "And Raj TV should do the same. Doordarshan's revenues have
been decreasing. Advertisers look at Sun as the reach channel and Raj and Vijay as
secondary reach channels."
Mr Gurudutt is quite confident Vijay TV will beat Raj TV to number two rank by March
2000. He's not at all sure that his channel can beat Sun, "but we want to be a
healthy competitor. Over the next three years, we want to become a close number two to
Brand building, he adds, is a long-term process. The channel is planning on-channel and
on-ground events with a once-a-month frequency.
It seems to be working, feels Mr Gurudutt, claiming an average of Rs 1.5-crore revenue
per month now. "We've signed yearly contracts so this should be a good indicator for
what we may end up with at the end of the financial year." He says that all large
advertisers are with Vijay TV "and we've taken our effective rate up to between Rs
4,000 and Rs 5,000 per 10 seconds, from around Rs 2,000 earlier." Sun TV, he guesses,
charges between Rs 8,000 and Rs 9,000 on an average per 10 seconds. "We deliver the
same GRPs, or gross rating points, as Sun, at a lower cost to advertisers."
Vijay TV, which was established as GEC TV by an entrepreneur in Chennai in the first
half of 1995, was bought over by Vijay Mallya's UB Group in December the same year.
Somewhere between then and November 1998, when The Unilazer group picked up the majority
shareholding and IL&FS 25 per cent, the channel got renamed Vijay. Today, the UB group
holds only a 7.5 per cent stake in the channel.
Competition is bound to get tougher. Raj Plus and Nila are already up and running, and
another channel, Jaya, is just taking off. As happens in every other fragmenting market
category, the going may get harder for each channel in Tamil Nadu.
Dreaming of being among the top rankers may be meaningless unless commercial growth
leaps and bounds too. How different should "being different" be in order to
achieve that? Perhaps Vijay TV can show us that over the next three years.