Seasons in programming, a common phenomenon internationally, has not been a concept familiar to television in India until recently. With KBC and Indian Idol returning in seasons, and ‘Hum Paanch’ coming back to Zee TV, seasonal programming is gaining popularity here too. Though TV programmers do not see seasons becoming mainline soon, they do believe it would be the solution for bringing variety on channels.
Seasonal shows were one of STAR One’s routes to bring in differentiation on the channel, with elder sibling STAR Plus clearly following continual shows or merely wrapping what didn’t work. It is still early days for STAR One though, and the channel hasn’t seen any show doing seasons yet. Zee TV is in the process of bringing back its own reality show ‘India’s Best…’ and the channel’s programming head Ashvini Yardi said that the recently ended ‘Kareena Kareena’ is also being considered for a comeback season.
Deepak Segal, EVP, Content & Communication, Star India, said, “The challenge increases in a show that has been on air for a long time. All our shows like ‘Kyunki…’ and ‘Kahaani…’ have already seen many storylines exhausted and you have to innovate constantly. In that sense, seasons can be a boon for content creators.”
Shedding more light on the advantages of seasons, Segal added, “There can be a lot more variety if you have a show for just six months, then replaced by another. Even from the creative point of view, the team gets enough time to energise and keep the story fresh. The best thing about seasons is its economics – only when a show is successful does it come back and you are not putting in energies on a property that wouldn’t yield returns.”
Tarun Katial, EVP & Business Head, Sony Entertainment Television, seems to concur. He said, “In seasons, you have that many more beginnings and climaxes. So there is much excitement in the show. Also, television in India is evolving fast and the audience demands are increasing. They want something new all the time and seasons in programming is going to be very crucial is being able to provide them with that. Seasons do make things simpler but they come with a different set of challenges and we have to be gear for these challenges now.”
According to Katial, though most aspects about seasons make sense, the key is that the return has to be better than its predecessor. He explained, “Even in seasons, you have to be better than what the audience has seen already, else why would they tune in to the show, night after night.”
But despite the popularity, and the fact that television in India has learnt much from international ways, why are seasons not as prevalent as they ideally should have been?
“In India, programmers can be insecure that if they vacate a spot, chances are that they would either not draw that audience back or someone else will benefit from it. Even though this isn’t really what happens, it prevents them from experimenting,” responded Katial.
Segal added, “The general mentality is that if something is working, then why mess with it? When the show is going on well, it should just go on!”
“People have just gone on following set ways,” said Yardi. “You didn’t really see shows doing seasons on DD and so on. However, now the standards and scales of the business are changing. It is an option one has now and there is no reason to not explore it.”
Competitive dynamics and the need to explore newer ways of luring the audience are making players gamble some more, and seasons appear to be top on the list of the experiments that can be done.
Lending perspective, Segal said, “In India right now, it is difficult to just switch over to seasons. The mainline channels like STAR Plus are still going to largely be in long-running soaps. But in due course, the new channels that are coming up, the second rung of channels and the like, will see a lot of seasonal programming – it will be very beneficial for them.”
Seasons seem to be a new road programmers are taking more often now. The benefits it offers implies progress for television. But will the phenomenon really establish in India save for format shows? That is a question many still can’t answer with certainty at present.