The pessimists believed Indians had better things to do on Sunday mornings than get up close and personal with the ugly realities of paedophilia, honour killings, domestic violence and other social evils.
Actor Aamir Khan tried to prove them wrong with his talk show, Satyamev Jayate, and succeeded to a certain extent. Along the way, he made a pile of money, as did broadcaster STAR India. But opinion is divided on whether advertisers got value for their money, given the show's high ad rates and average ratings.
STAR is said to have pre-sold around 80 per cent of the show's ad spots even before it went on air. It earned sponsorship revenues of around Rs 5.3 crore per episode.
Industry estimates indicate that title sponsor Airtel shelled out Rs 18 crore for the series while co-sponsor Eureka Forbes (AquaGuard) paid Rs 15 crore. Six associate sponsors, including Coca-Cola, Skoda Auto and Axis Bank, chipped in with another Rs 6 crore to Rs 7 crore each. Then there were the regular ad spots, which were sold at an average of Rs 8 lakh per 10 seconds.
"TRPS (television rating points) for the show have not met expectations and have gone down in later episodes," says Sandip Biswas, Director, technology, media and telecom, Deloitte Consulting.
Apart from STAR Plus, its flagship, five other STAR channels, including regional ones, telecast the show. The sponsorship package came bundled with ad space across these channels
"It made sense for the advertisers that way," says Mona Jain, CEO of VivaKi Exchange, a media buying agency. In addition, the show aired simultaneously on public broadcaster Doordarshan (DD) and media baron Ramoji Rao's ETV channel.
"Considering the show's average ratings, advertisers would have been better off spending money on ten different programmes," says the marketing head of a lighting company, who did not want to be identified.Satyamev Jayate
, while getting decent ratings, was not a runaway success. According to industry data, the show had average television rating points (TRP) of around 3.5 for its 13 episodes. But this includes TRPs for Doordarshan and ETV.
In the Hindi general entertainment genre, a TRP of 3-4 is good, say media buyers that BT spoke to. One TRP indicates that one per cent of the target group - in Satyamev Jayate
's case almost all households in India - watched a programme. India has 146 million television households according to KPMG India Media and Entertainment Report, 2012.
TRPS are critical for a television channel as its advertising revenues depend on them. Higher TRPS allow the channel to charge advertisers more for a spot and vice versa. In Satyamev Jayate
's case, however, with most of the ad inventory sold in advance, STAR was sitting pretty.
Uday Shankar, CEO of STAR India, believes advertisers are satisfied with the response to the programme. "Nobody has complained to us. In fact, they are already making enquiries about the next season."
Shankar has plenty of reasons to be happy. In addition to sponsorship and ad revenues, STAR had a 50-50 revenue sharing arrangement with DD
. Then there was a little something from video-sharing website YouTube, which recorded 17 million views over the show's 13 episodes. All in all, STAR earned a tidy sum. But its production costs were also high - the broadcaster spent upwards of Rs 6 crore per episode, including Rs 3 crore paid to Khan.
The advertisers themselves are not complaining.
"The programme generated good eyeballs among the relevant target group, SEC (socioeconomic classification) A and B," says Rahul Saighal, Chief Marketing Officer of Samsung India. The SEC system classifies urban Indian households into five categories, from A to E, depending on their level of affluence. With a TRP of 6.5, Satyamev Jayate
did very well among people in the A and B categories - affluent, educated and urban middle-class viewers.
"Our brand is already well known among our consumers or potential consumers. This was a platform for engagement and not targeting," adds Manisha Lath Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer of Axis Bank.
Shankar asserts that the programme did well even in the C, D and E categories. Wasim Basir, Director of Integrated Marketing Communications at Coca-Cola India and South West Asia, agrees. "A programme with a consistent rating of three is supposed to permeate into the lower sections."
DD may have had a role to play in that. According to the KPMG report cited earlier, it is the sole channel in 29 million households with its terrestrial feed. That works out to about 150 million viewers. Industry figures show that the first episode garnered 11 TRPS on DD.So, would the show have worked without Khan?
Probably not. As Axis Bank's Gupta puts it: "Many people watched Satyamev Jayate
only because of Aamir Khan. It needed a celebrity like him to work."