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May 7, 2002 | 1210 IST
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Ad rush for prime time slots

Rumi Dutta

Ad slump? Incredible it may seem if you looked at the advertisers' rush for television prime time, though prime time tariffs were at least eight times higher than off-peak hour rates.

Advertisers want to make the most of it, while TV channels see it as another way to strike it rich. A media analyst says: "It is a win-win situation for both."

Indeed, such is the rush that prime time, now defined as between 2030 and 2300 IST, is being redefined by TV channels. Major channels are planning to increase their prime time slots by at least one hour to 90 minutes, by launching mega serials at 1900 IST.

Star India was an early bird. The channel has already launched a programme at 1930 IST and has shifted one of its most popular serials to the 2330 IST slot.

Star is also working on new programmes for the 1900 IST slot. Raj Naik, executive vice-president, Star India said: "Our prime time starts at 1930 IST and continues till 2330 IST. Every channel wants to keep redefining prime time by stretching the time band."

Zee follows suit. Partha Sinha, director, marketing at Zee Network, said: "We are looking at launching big-budget mega serials on the 1900-1930 IST slot and on the 1930-2000 IST slot. There is a rush for advertising during prime time, but the time is very limited."

"The concept of prime time is programme-driven. It depends on the quality of a programme; the better the programme, the higher the viewership and therefore of more interest to advertisers," he added.

"Prime time slots on TV are sought after by family brands, including fast-moving consumer goods and food products. Around 50-70 per cent of the advertisement money spent by the FMCG majors are for prime time slots," a senior executive at a leading media-buying firm says.

"Prime time slots have the highest number of viewers. Advertisers get the maximum benefit then," an executive at another media-buying firm adds.

TV channels are trying to expand the prime time band because the higher rates they charge will inflate their bottom lines. Moreover, with subscription revenue becoming uncertain, they're bound to focus more on ad revenue, executives at a TV channel say.

Media analysts are of the opinion that expanding the prime time at the tail-end (late at night) is more feasible than expanding the band at the top-end (1900 IST), keeping in mind the urban viewers' habits.

The new schedules may lead to the replacement of non-performing programmes.

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