It is not easy being a content head in the current cutthroat Hindi GE (general entertainment) genre, given the newly added, unwritten ‘need-to-deliver-now’ clause in every show’s brief.
Gone are the days, when a channel could afford to run a show for a couple of years just to give it a “fair chance” to prove its rating-delivery capability. In the race towards the top slot, which even though continues to be with Star Plus right now albeit a severely diminished margin, the patience level of GE broadcasters is at an all-time low. The top four channels – Star Plus, Zee TV, Sony and Colors are barely 15-20 rating points and sometimes even lesser away from each other. One good movie, one strong finale, one storyline peak or one hour long special is good enough to change the position of a channel on the ratings chart.
And Hindi GEs are scampering to change this and attain a more permanent leadership slot. Those who are not turning around their shows fast enough are already paying a price by dropping lower in GE viewership ratings chart.
Unprecedented pace of change in GE primetime
Primetime fiction shows are the so-called bread and butter for any Hindi GE channel. Movies and reality or format properties are designed to be the ‘hooks’ or ‘traction builders’ that should help in building up the sustenance shows but there is a price to pay for such properties – a price that a media agency or an advertiser may not be willing to share today.
Hence, the need for strong daily soaps or primetime serials has always been felt, and addressed, in this genre. Over the years, Hindi GE has seen all kinds of programming experiments to elongate the life of a show that may have even remotely delivered for the channel – leap in storylines, introduction of new characters, sudden twists in the tale... the list goes on. But today a show has to earn its right to see any kind of a second push.
A perfect example would be Star Plus show ‘Sajda Tere Pyaar Mein’ which ended in June 2012, barely four months after its launch. It was replaced by ‘Pyaar Ka Dard Hai - Meetha Meetha Pyaara Pyaara’, which seems to be a good decision for the channel, as the show has managed to bring attention to Star Plus’ 10 pm slot again.
‘Sajda Tere Pyaar Mein’ was not the only one to be axed with such speed. Sony’s show ‘Shubh Vivah’, which debuted in February 2012, also came to an end in June this year owing to low TRPs. Colors show ‘Havan’ met similar fate after a brief stint of six months since its launch in September 2011. ‘Dekha Ek Khwaab’ was closed within nine months of the show’s launch on Sony.
Ruthlessly prioritised closures and changes
Star Plus and Sony have followed the philosophy of ruthless prioritisation very closely. And Zee TV has always been prudent on the spends of a channel.
When ‘Kuch Toh Log Kahenge’, that was launched with much fanfare as the Indian version of the popular Pakistani show ‘Dhoop Kinare’, did not deliver on expected numbers in the primetime slot of 8 pm, the 11 pm slot was made its original airing, allowing Sony to bring a new offering in the 8 pm time band.
Star Plus moved ‘Navya’ from 10 pm to 6 pm – a move seen to severely shorten the show’s lifetime as its ratings began to drop in the 10 pm slot. Eventually, it was curtains down for ‘Navya’ too.
The tendency to bring generation leaps and lead character changes in order to click a show is swapped with the inclination to replace the show itself.
In 2012, around 13 shows went off air. Some, also because channels such as Star and Zee, are trying to continue following the thought process of ending a show with its logical conclusion even if the TV rating is still coming. This was seen with the highly popular ‘Bidaai’ on Star Plus, leaving the channel to struggle in its 9 pm until it found ‘Diya Aur Baati’.
Consequently, apart from ‘Sajda Tere Pyaar Mein’, ‘Shubh Vivah’, ‘Dekha Ek Khwaab’ and ‘Navya’, other shows to have gone off-air this year were ‘Sasural Genda Phool’ and ‘Maryada Lekin Kab Tak on Star Plus, ‘Choti Bahu’, ‘Ram Milaayi Jodi’, ‘Bhagonwali – Baante Apni Taqdeer’ and ‘Yahan Mein Ghar Ghar Kheli’ on Zee TV, and ‘Na Aana Is Des Mein Lado’, ‘Phulwa’ and ‘Havan’ on Colors.
And the slew on show launches...
As a result of low tolerance for non-delivering shows, Hindi GECs are churning out a slew of new shows on a fortnightly basis.
Zee TV launched six new shows this year -- ‘Sapne Suhaane Ladakpan ke’, ‘Rab Se Sona Ishq’, ‘Phir Subah Hogi’, ‘Punar Vivah’, ‘Fear Files’ and ‘Ramayan’.
Star Plus launched five fiction shows this year out of which three shows ‘Lakhon Mein Ek, ‘Arjun’ and ‘Teri Meri Love Stories’ premiered in the month of August itself. ‘Khamoshiyan’ is another upcoming show on the channel.
Sony launched ‘Kya Hua Tera Vaada’, ‘Byaah Hamari Bahoo Ka’ and ‘Love Marriage Ya Arranged Marriage’.
Colors also launched four new shows namely ‘Na Bole Tum Na Maine Kuch Kaha’, ‘Kairi’, ‘Chhal, Sheh, Maat’ and ‘Madhubala – Ek Ishq, Ek Junoon’. Though Colors does not have any upcoming fiction based show lined up, Sony is all set to launch ‘Honge Judaa Na Hum’ in September 2012.
Channel heads are actively taking content decisions now and essentially that means do or die for a show. For content creators and programming heads, Hindi GE is living in its toughest competition yet. The closure of Imagine TV this year and Zee Next, Real, 9X in the last few years is only an indication of a more stringent survival of the fittest, and the fastest.
With inputs from Synjini Nandi