According to popular belief, the couch potato has a gender. It’s male. And in space seller speak, it’s also fat, lazy, horizontal and occasionally flatulent, with the purchasing power that will fetch wafers. With due respects to popular belief, such a creature cannot exist because TV does not make programmes for him anymore. Advertisers want someone who not just spends a lot of time watching TV but also spends a lot of money at the shop round the corner. What kind of a person watches TV for a living and spends all the money in the house? "The housewife," says Sony’s programming chief, Rekha Nigam.
The message on the wall is clear: television in India doesn’t really care for the men. Ergo, they don’t make programmes on prime time for them anymore. With over 70 per cent of ad revenues coming from commercials that target women directly, prime time is essentially a female bastion. The garden-variety media planner will now call the couch potato "55 per cent female". For the crime of being less significant to the coffers of the channels, the Indian male has to be content with watching India get a pasting from most teams that play cricket, or for that matter hockey. The other offering for the male segment is the news channel, which is about the only place where history repeats itself, many times every day. hbo, Star movies, Hallmark, Star World and axn cater to a niche that’s too peripheral to be called the Indian male. kbc is one programme that shows an equal gender split. From May, it will be down to three times a week. Its initial curiosity value is on the wane and soaps in other channels are unfolding into interesting complexities of domestic life—a fertile garden where women would like to peep into between eight and ten. And they do, trps say. In our predominantly one-TV society, all channels agree, the remote is with the woman. Amusingly, the average Indian woman, supposed to be suppressed and subjugated, somehow is the one who’s called the ‘dominant viewer’ in marketing parlance. Almost all the programming chiefs of popular channels concede that they do keep the woman in mind when they mid-wife a prime slotting.