Zee Television has always been on an experimental rampage – be it the bold ‘Astitva’, the pleasant ‘Lavanya’, or the slightly offbeat ‘Chausath Panne’, or the heart-rending love story, albeit with a supernatural twist ‘Tum Bin Jaoon Kahan’. Yet, most of these shows, despite rich content, have failed to make much of a dent in the TRP market, wooing some numbers from SEC A and B in the metros, but still not striking a notable chord with the masses. Is the experiment pattern working for Zee, especially, when the casket includes new comers like ‘Mein Aur Chi’ and ‘Tumhari Disha’, which again don’t qualify as the daily cuppa of household battles?
Says Sandip Tarkas, RK Swamy/BBDO, “I don’t really know if the answer lies in experimental shows or radical programming because what Zee essentially needs, is a mass entertainer which would work as a channel driver of sorts. Shows such as ‘Astitva’ may have worked in metropolitan cities (Sec A, B) but there is a definite need to percolate to the masses with shows that hold more of emotional content and sudden twists and turns. I believe that the channel is working on building its prime time properties (I would be very interested in knowing the nature of the properties that they are bringing out this time around) and let’s see which of these works as a channel driver.”
Tarkas adds, “Once Zee identifies its channel driver, half the battle would be won as the channel driver would strategically support properties that are placed around it. One of Zee’s experiments could well translate into ‘Jassi’ for the channel.”
Harish Shriyan (Vice President, Mediacom) asserts that experimental programming is the right route to be taken for a channel of Zee’s calibre. He states, “Any channel worth its salt needs to take on new genres and innovative concepts, because that’s the only way to survive. Let’s be clear about this — the K soaps have become a habit with the viewers and that’s hard to break. Audience base wise, the K category has become quite saturated. What can really work in such a situation is a storyline, which offers a difference (and hopefully), a refreshing train of thought. Better still, if it’s marketed in a unique manner and with much buzz and hype. Sampling is crucial, and then the content ought to match up. That’s the only way it can work.”
What about the changes on the programming front that Zee is bringing about? Shriyan responds, “Interesting. They are trying to juggle time slots and shows, in order to get the right mix. The results, ought to speak for themselves.”
Quite a lot has been happening in Zee off late. ‘Tamanna House’ has been brought to an abrupt end (slotted at 10 pm) and coming in is the reality show ‘Bombay Dreams’, an offshoot of talent hunt India’s Best – on September 27 at 10 pm. Aroona Irani’s ‘Tum Bin Jaoon Kahan’ (telecast at 9.30 pm) will be shifted to the 10.30 pm slot, while 9.30 pm arena would be occupied by the newbie ‘Kareena Kareena’ (poised for an October 11 launch.) The channel has a few surprises, for the 10.30 pm and 11 pm slots, which it seems to be revealed soon.
Manas Mishra, Associate Vice President (Initiative) believes that experiments per se on Zee’s programming front have not been without its share of dividends. He asserts, “Numbers have shown that upper end audiences have been attracted to shows such as ‘Astitva’ and ‘Lipstick’. Maybe, the channel can capitalise on this fact and build its base further. Experimentation is key, for any kind of programming, without which we would have the same kind of storylines in the television mart. Zee’s route is obviously crucial in its hunt for a channel driver. And the changes ought to bear fruit.”
Zee’s goal is ultimately stickiness in viewing. All that the channel badly needs is one property, which manages to hold on to the viewers, and persuade them to stick to the channel. Despite ‘Saas Bahu’ soaps that gear TVRs of 15, 16, 12 and a bespectacled secretary-turned-CEO who manages to gear TVRs of 5, 6 or more, the hunt for the channel driver is on. And radical programming is the only answer.