The Hindi general entertainment genre is maturing and channels are experimenting with new formats and presentation styles to lure viewers, and subsequently, advertisers.
STAR India’s second general entertainment channel Life OK decided to take a lesser travelled road, when it launched ‘Ram Leela’, a musical show comprising 13 episodes. Next on Life Ok’s radar is a show called ‘2612’ themed around the Mumbai terror attacks. Once again the duration of the show would have very less to do with its popularity with viewers. Both shows – one a daily and second a weekly, look to capitalise on the topicality of the subject which would be top of mind for audiences at the respective time of telecast. The interesting aspect is that unlike shows such as ‘CID’ and ‘Arjun’, where the story arc concludes in a single episode, ‘Ram Leela’ and ‘2612’ are continued or linear storylines.
Colors is also all set to experiment with ‘season’ for its show ‘Na Bole Tum Na Maine Kuch Kaha’. The recently concluded show is soon to be back with season two in early 2013. Zee TV has already demonstrated with ‘Choti Bahu’ that seasons need not be a concept that works only in the Western content market but television creative fraternity in India too can take this option to bring longevity to a particular show.
For channels, experiments such as these are only a way to continuously reinvent themselves, in order to stay ahead in the eyeball grabbing game.
For many industry observers, jury is still out on whether seasons or finite shows would work with Indian audience that over the years have shown more inclination to tune into daily soaps. Will shorter duration shows or seasons become a popular way to connect with viewers who could lose interest due to lack of continuity?
Finite series may become popular for non day-part leaders
According to Anindya Ray, Vice President, Lodestar UM, there are two ways of looking at the upcoming trend. The top rank Hindi GECs (general entertainment channels) already have long running series designed to hold on to, and grow, viewer base. The concept of finite programming or shorter format shows may become a popular option for GECs that are not leaders in their respective day parts and are looking to break clutter.
Reiterating that there is intense competition between Hindi GECs in top tier and second tier, Ray said, “Finite series are a way to ramp up reach, since second rung Hindi GECs act as a foil for the first rung. One can also link this to the viability of the business model. Since longer running fiction shows are more expensive when compared to shorter formats, the latter would be popular with the second rung GECs. It would also help provide something new and fresh for viewers and allow room for experimentation at lesser cost.”
“Audiences today are evolving. Gone are the days of ‘Kyunki saans bhi kabhi bahu thi’ that spanned on for years. Such shows are merely exceptions to the general television rule today. Attention span of viewers is decreasing and it makes sense for channels to experiment with shorter programming formats,” added Carat’s Vice President Rajni Menon.
Seasons brings longevity
The advent of seasons has its advantages when it comes for a channel to build a longer running property. Cutting a show into different seasons would help present a hint of freshness, keeping the basic base of the show almost the same. Ray elaborated, “In India we have a family that consists of older and younger generations and hence, season formats would work. When a show is broken down into seasons, it will lessen the confusion experienced by viewers when there are numerous generation leaps or elaborate story lines.”
Menon reminded that season format has worked well for the English GEC space. “In US, the day time programming is a mix of both finite and longer running shows but primetime is mainly season shows. Though it would definitely take time for Indian television to catch up to that kind of defined viewing experience but with as the domain grows, we would head in that direction,” she added.
Though ratings are not available for now, Menon believes that ‘Ram Leela’ would have done well for Life Ok. The show generated the right buzz which would infer that audiences can be receptive to finite shows too. Due to shorter audience attention span, it becomes difficult for a show to remain top of mind especially when the story stretches running the risk of losing the tightness of the narrative over a period of time. Shorter duration shows and seasons would play a key role in defining the content future for television in India as well.