Going by the relative channel share tracked by TAM Media Research, Zee's relative channel share stands at 28.5 per cent, slightly less than the 30.7 per cent that Star Plus has of the entire channel pie in the period between August 26, 2007 and September 1, 2007.
Only a few months ago, the gap looked difficult to bridge, with Star Plus (38 per cent share) leading the pack during the December 31, 2006 to January 1, 2007 period, followed by Zee (23 per cent).
But since the start of this year, Star Plus has faced tough times as the ratings of its major shows have fallen.
Star Plus shows managed to hold their positions in the top-ten till March. However, the ratings of its big winners such as Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki, fell after that.
For instance, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi had a rating of 6.3, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki 6.2, followed by Kasauti Zindagi Ki 5.6 and Prithviraj Chauhan 5.2 during January 7-13.
Even with the relaunch of KBC, Star Plus was not able to stop the ratings from slipping. The show clocked 9.3 on debut day, January 21, 2007, then dropped drastically to an average rating of 5.
So what has caused the fall of Star Plus?
"Lack of programming innovation on Star's front has worked to the benefit of not only Zee but also other channels," said a media expert.
For instance, when Star Plus countered Zee's music talent show Saregamapa Challenge with the launch of Star Voice of India, hosted by renowned singer and former host of Saregamapa, Shaan, the move failed.
"Zee brought freshness to the show by getting a young host (Aditya Narayan) and including participants from across the globe," said an industry expert.
On July 21, Zee knocked Star Plus out of the number one spot as Saregamapa's rating soared to 6.2. During this period, Star Plus' Kyunki Saas dropped to 5.3 and Kahaani went down to 4.8.
From the start of the year, Zee began churning out new programmes. To begin with, it launched Titan Antakshri in January, then a slew of new serials in the afternoon and evening time band.
By August, Zee's programmes gained over Star's shows. "Our strategy has been to work on our weaknesses. We focused on building new properties while strengthening the existing ones," said Asish Kaul, senior vice-president (corporate brand development), Zee Network.
Star has admitted that Zee's better programming had helped it to do better. "They have done a few good things and it has worked for the channel," said a spokesperson for Star India. Star Plus is now trying to get its act together to maintain its top position.
The broadcaster will soon launch the third season of its celebrity dance show Nach Baliye, which will be aired on Star Plus instead of Star One.
"We have been regularly monitoring the channel's performance. We are in the process of launching new shows. We are confident that we will be able to continue being the market leaders," the channel's spokesperson said.