Everybody says they are fine. The television channel heads and the men who really steer the show have now come to terms with the fact that ideas do get duplicated across media but there isn't a reason why anybody should get in a sweat about this.
For all those who haven't got the point remember what G B Shaw said: "if you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples, then you and I still have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas."
The Indian media scene is going through a phase like this. Although there is bad blood when your 'baby' gets whisked away, most have taken it in a healthy spirit that duplication of ideas or for that matter, poaching, is a common occurrence in India and abroad. And, the buck has been passed to the viewers to take the call.
Ashish Kaul, VP, Corporate Branding, Zee, said, "Whether a channel has done good, bad or ugly work out of its copied, original, borrowed, inspired or bought content is determined by the viewer. If the viewer likes it, it's a success. If he doesn't, it's a failure."
TV Today Head-Marketing Rajesh Sheshadri questioned, "Between an original content which fails and non-original idea that clicks, what would you prefer?" Sheshadri's point being that you cannot be creative for the sake of creativity. He believes that there are original ideas, which clicked well for TV Today, but then ultimately it's viewer's views that are critical.
However, for some it is sacrosanct for the ideas to come out of the ideating room. Vikram Chandra, CEO of NDTV.com and Head NDTV Profit, said, "In news, there may be room for some commonality because across the world there is a standard format for bulletins. However, for theme-based shows, we get creative satisfaction only when the concept is developed on our own."
Surprisingly, every channel has witnessed a situation when their programme has been whacked by the rival channel with minimal variation. Does this hurt? "Yes there is damage because you lose the first mover advantage and you fall into the me-too category but then you really can't do anything about it. Either you improvise it or drop it entirely," said Sheshadri. Haresh Chawla, CEO, CNBC-TV 18, also agrees that such situations are common. "We have pioneered the business news broadcast and when other channels entered this genre, there were several occasions when our formats were picked. However, we believe such things happen and all you can do as a leader is keep defining more innovative formats," he said.
A real dilemma that emerges out of this is how do you define an original concept. "There is nothing that can be called original," said Kaul, adding, "Every concept in art is inspired from life and so we are just mimicking life." Siddhartha Gupta, Director, Channel 7, cites this thought with an example.
"Most shows are a take off from international concepts. In fact an entertainment channel had thought of bringing in the international show Survivor to India. So much so that the channel had shot the first pilot but at the test phase it found that it is the individualistic spirit that triumphs through the show and in India, such a spirit does not exist. So every show has to mirror the community," he said.
Interestingly most formats in India are based out of the tried and tested international formats. Gustakhi Maaf resembles BBC's Spitting Images; Business Baazigar of Bob Winstead's Entrepreneurs; Indian Idol of American Idol; KBC of Who wants to be a Millionaire; makeover shows; the car and bike shows, among others. While most channel leaders believe that it's good to follow the changing trends, they also stress on the fact that creative localization is critical in such a case. It has to cater to Indian taste and sensibilities. Rohit Bansal, Editor (Business), India TV, believes that it is good to keep the windows open to the winds of change but it's essential to keep your feet firmly grounded. "Can you imagine Star Wars or Jaws being adapted in India?" he questions, adding, "You have to remember that Deewar and Sholay are original products that worked well because it was relatable. Television content is similar to cinema, you can't have everything that works well there to work well here."
Every channel seems to have their own take on what is a real success, a perceived success or viewer-defined success for programmes. And every channel really is happy treating their audience with original, borrowed, bought or licensed shows. Does it bother any of us? No it doesn't because we have accepted, just as the world has, that "imitation is the sincerest form of television".