Shailesh Kapoor: 2019 Likely to be Hindi GEC’s Worst Year Ever?

01 Mar,2019

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

We are now in the third month of an already eventful year. It’s the year of the elections and the World Cup. But while the excitement around those two events builds up, a busy news phase has already started, from the Pulwama attacks in mid-February to the events around it thereafter.

Specifically from a television perspective, the news and sports genres should make significant gains this year. The election dates are likely be announced soon, and one doesn’t expect there to be a dull moment on the news front for 3-4 months at a stretch. Similarly, there’s the IPL and then the World Cup, which will collectively run for a similar period of 3-4 months too. Match timings in the World Cup are highly conducive to Indian audiences, with the second innings in most matches coinciding with India’s prime time. That India will be one of the favorites in the tournament makes it even more luring.

Where does this leave the rest of the television genres, especially the General Entertainment Channels (GECs)? Not in a very strong position. The Hindi GEC category, in particular, has had a torrid period over the last 3-4 years, losing category share to news, movies, sports and regional GECs. 2018 saw some stability in the genre, but the general symptoms of category fatigue still exist, and it’s taken big-ticket reality shows to bail out the category time and again over the last two years in particular.

With the IPL, the World Cup and the elections season, reality shows themselves will have competition from outside the genre, not to mention how fiction shows can struggle even more with so much other topical content available.

Usually, one would see such a period as a blip, and expect that the Hindi GEC category will show a temporary drop from April to early July, and then recover to current levels thereafter. But this can be tougher than it seems. Three to four  months is a long period, and news and sports collectively can break the consumer habit of watching daily soaps as a routine. Even if this happens in a small fraction of households, its impact will be felt on viewership numbers once normalcy is restored after the World Cup final on July 14.

It’s also the year of TRAI’s new tariff order, and that can further complicate things on ground, though the exact impact will be known only as things settle down by April-end (assuming no further extensions are given).

You cannot sympathise with a category that should have seen this coming from at least two years ago. Deadwood content has no place in an entertainment ecosystem that’s driven by an overload of options. This column is now in its seventh year, and the topic of Hindi GEC content inertia has been a regular feature for at least five of those seven. And now, a year has come where it could all spiral down further in a hurry. Be prepared for some very poor numbers from the Hindi GEC category this year. They could be worse than you think.

 

Shailesh Kapoor is Founder and CEO, Ormax Media. This column appears on MxMIndia every Friday. The views here are personal

 

 

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