Where mass entertainment channels at one point were in the midst of launching comedy shows, the broadcasters have now taken the humour road to push their second family - whether it is STAR making noise around Laughter Challenge on STAR One or Zee painting the city with Smile, or SET working on SAB’s forthcoming campaign, laughter is quite on the ‘outdoors’.
All the second-rung channels of leading television players – Star One (STAR Network), Zee Smile (Zee Network) and SAB TV (Sony Entertainment TV) seem to leave no stone unturned to cash in on the opportunities in the comic genre.
On mainstay channels, current comedies like STAR Plus’ LOC playing at a 3 plus and Sony’s ‘Batliwalla House No. 43’ swaying between 1 and 2 plus – the shows haven’t really given the channel the additional numbers that they were expected to bring to the slot but in the case of these sibling channels, the humour content does seem to pay.
As is known, STAR One’s top rated shows are ‘Sarabhai vs. Sarabhai’ and ‘Instant Khichdi’ but the channel’s experiment with ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge’ has really delivered. Placed on Friday 10.00 pm on June 3, 2005, the show has rated an all time high for STAR One at a TVR of 2.3 for CS 4+ in the Hindi speaking market and for the channel’s core TG (CS AB 10-44) the number is at 2.76.
STAR One’s Ravi Menon said that ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge’ wasn’t launched just out of the blue but has been a result of research.
Menon added, “We realised that we needed more talent to strengthen our 10 pm band. If one leaves out Shekhar Suman, Sajid Khan, Javed Jaffery and a few others, the comedy genre really starves. This pointed to a need to search someone who has an excellent comic timing and who can be an entertainer while he performs. In short, this property aims to seek a new generation of humour artistes.”
STAR One has also roped in Pankaj Saraswat, who has worked on programmes like ‘Flashback’ on Channel [V] and ‘Babbar Sher’ in Radio City. Comedy is indeed paying off for the channel.
This is also the case for Zee Smile. The channel has shown substantial growth in the year, moving from early decimal channel shares (0.31 in week 7 and 0.53 in week 12) to highs like 1.22 and 1.44 in weeks 18 and 19. Even as the channel share has dropped in the last four weeks, it hasn’t come below 0.9 per cent.
Zee Smile is seen as a comedy channel but Nitin Vaidya, Sr. VP Zee Smile, was quick to point out, “Zee Smile isn’t just about comedy but is broader in its approach. The objective is to make TV viewing a fun-filled experience, as research findings point to a dire need for such programmes. The official tagline for Zee Smile is ‘Jiyo Zee Bhar Ke’. In short the message Smile wants to convey is – reach home to laugh. Even the movies, which we show will have to fit this bill.”
Exactly the strategy that SAB TV is executing, “The forthcoming programmes and movies – everything keeps the positioning of the channel in mind,” said SAB spokesperson. The spokesperson also informed that after Sony’s takeover, SAB TV has made a few initial changes in its content, “We have taken off the current affairs band and hence have a complete comedy channel.”
Though the strategy hasn’t translated to numbers yet, the spokesperson asserted that there are various other changes that the channel has planned, which will in effect change this scene. “We have already corrected functions like distribution and the results would be seen soon.”
SAB TV, under the new management, is presently in the process of fine-tuning positioning and programming and would then launch a full-fledged communication exercise by next month.
Perhaps the sustenance of these channels can also be explained by what recent research shows in regards to C&S growth and increase in TV viewing population and time spent on TV. In addition to that, industry players like Menon and Vaidya believed that present day’s viewer seeks content, which he can enjoy with his family. Either ways, alternate programming channels like humour channels, are promising – standalone and for the network on the whole.