MxM Mondays | Is there a crisis of ideas in Hindi GECs?

27 Aug,2012

 

By Ananya Saha and Meghna Sharma

 

From ‘Buniyaad’ to ‘Bade Achhe Lagte Hain’, from ‘Mahabharat’ to ‘Satyamev Jayate’, Hindi entertainment has come a long way. In the channels’ bid to outdo each other in the TVR race, content can take a back seat. Can lavish sets, repeat telecasts, and infinite numbers of episodes help the GECs to win the race? Is the audience ready to lap up the same themes and content?

 

The theme for this week’s MxM Mondays is ‘Is there a crisis of ideas in Hindi GEC?’. MxM spoke to a crosssection of industry veterans to find out.

 

Ajay Kakar, Chief Marketing Officer – Financial Services, Aditya Birla Group

Today, there appears to be a herd mentality when it comes to programming on GEC channels. What we have always noted in Bollywood seems to now reflect on TV too: the ‘success formula’ syndrome.

 

If one kind of serial or format succeeds, there appears to be a rush, across channels, to try and follow and replicate that seeming formula, be it the trend of reality programmes, dance shows, talent hunt or even soaps.

 

This apparent commoditisation makes decision-taking more difficult, as a marketer, when you are screening the market for opportunities.

 

Anamika Mehta, COO, Lodestar UM

In many ways, yes. We continue to see the same content and programming repackaged and marketed differently. While a couple of fresh initiatives have been undertaken over time, probably the fact they have been literally a handful is reflective of crisis of ideas. So there have been soaps and ore soaps with some twists right from the ‘K’ days to some with a social tack to comedy to the global reality formats customised to Indian flavour and culture. Given the fickle Indian viewer, and the fact that a GEC talks to the lowest denominator; the challenge is to bust existing myths and formula. And experiment large for success.

 

Anita Nayyar, CEO, India and Southeast Asia, Havas Media

When Colors was launched it brought a set of fresh content and then both Zee and Star followed it. It was a refreshing change because everyone was fed-up with the saas-bahu sagas. And as for the reality shows, most GECs are following safe genre which has worked well with the viewers. One must realise that programming costs are high and when a programme doesn’t work, it affects the channel. Therefore, a channel has to be very careful about what it puts out in front of the viewers. So, a time-tested genre is what most of them opt for, unless and until a broadcaster is very confident about a format and willing to take the risk.

 

Indian viewers in general prefer only certain genres – serials, Bollywood related shows, reality shows (where they can related to the lesser known aam adami) and movies. Therefore, channels too prefer to revolve around these genres. For a channel viewership is important because only that will bring in the revenues.

 

Himanka Das, senior vice president – West, Carat Media India

Well, I won’t call it crisis, it has definitely become dynamic. Considering the dynamic nature of viewership patterns, viewers do not watch channels by appointment viewing but they watch programmes by appointment viewing. Having said that, it also reflects the way a broadcaster changes programming strategy within a span of 13 weeks most often, though very few of them that go for a longer period. In the term ‘GEC’, the word entertainment has significant relevance to viewers; so long as content entertains the audience, that becomes the longevity of a programme. In that regard, broadcasters do realise the competitive nature of business and are constantly trying new formats and topics in relevant time bands to keep eyeballs going.

 

 

Jahnavi Pal, TV analyst and columnist

If one surfs through different Hindi GECs today, he/she will find the same clichéd concepts and sometimes even titles. Today the trend is to name a serial after an old Hindi song! Broadcasters feel that is what viewers want, but to be frank it’s not true. No one is ready to take a risk. They follow each other or ride on a previous show’s success. For example, if a show XYZ was a success then others will have shows which are loosely based on it. However, there are some who are ready to take a chance; take Star Plus for instance, which showcased a revolutionary show – Satyamev Jayate. Agreed, it’s not a primetime soap opera, but a GEC did take a risk in showcasing a show like that on a Sunday morning. There are other shows like ‘Kuch toh log kahenge’ and ‘Bade achhe lagte hain’, which started off very well but somehow now have lost their plot and have become diluted. Therefore, it wouldn’t be correct to say that there is a dearth of ideas because there are plenty of them, it’s the willingness of a channel to take risk is more crucial to take the industry forward.

 

Nikhil Sinha, producer, Triangle Film Company

There is scarcity of fresh ideas on GECs. Right now, the trend is about following each other; if one idea works for a channel then others too will start making projects on similar lines. New concepts are considered risk-taking propositions. However, one shouldn’t be surprised if one channel took the risk to experiment and it becomes a hit, others too will follow suit. I feel that GECs should try out new concepts as audiences are maturing too. However, what will click can’t be guaranteed in advance. Having said that, I also know that consensus between business and entertainment is also very important.

 

 

Sajal Mukherjee, Media veteran

All channels are trying their level best to create distinct content and appeal to specific audiences. Star Plus, which is the number one channel, dominates the scene when it comes to well-produced programmes, and all the other channels like Zee, Sony and Colors try to emulate the same formula. The shows on every channel go on and on, and they try to stretch the same content without changing the format, over a very long period of time.

 

It is actually a vicious circle. Each serial has three important parts: content producer, advertiser and viewer. If the channel produces a good show, but it gets no advertisers, because of no or less viewership, the content producer has to balance the budget of the show. If there is no money, the production values also go down.

 

The channels need to experiment more. KBC has had a good run, and still enjoys dedicated viewership. Satyamev Jayate was appreciated. It is only a question of stretching the innovation. Every channel’s focus is to get the viewership, and advertisers. Once they start making money, then they produce better shows. But it is important that every ‘me too’ channel tries to create different programming.

 

Saurabh Srivastava, Producer, Panglossean Entertainment (of ‘Phir Subah Hogi’)

I do not agree that Hindi GECs are facing a crisis of ideas. We, the producers, brainstorm every day to come out with new ideas. At the end of the day, it is just a competition. There are so many Hindi entertainment channels, we try hard to make our shows distinctive and different from all other shows. We work very hard on every show. It is definitely quite hard, but we have to keep trying.

 

 

 

Shailesh Kapoor, CEO – Ormax Media

There is definitely no dearth of ideas in GECs. The GEC category inIndiais only about 20 years old, and has constantly evolved in terms of new ideas, formats, stories and genres. Having said that, the culture of daily shows has stretched the GEC content machinery over the last 12 years. The pressure to deliver episodes round the clock means that the creative teams spend less time on ideation and development, and more on execution. This, in turn, leads to an under-exploitation of the potential. Channels and production houses should focus on creating a robust pipeline of strong ideas, which can be tapped when the requirement arises. This would ensure that the creative abilities of the teams, both channel and production, are utilised to their potential. Focus on content development, as against just content production, will ensure that better, bigger ideas see the light of the day more often than what’s happening currently.

 

Sukesh Motwani, head – fiction programming, Zee TV

I wouldn’t say that there is a crisis of ideas in Hindi GECs; on the contrary they are doing their best to entertain their audiences. However, I do think that broadcasters will have to decide and show confidence about how much they are willing to experiment with. Zee has always believed in going a step forward and has taken bold steps. For instance, right now we have a paranormal show called Fear Files and earlier we showcased Jhansi ki Rani, a historic saga about a female protagonist. Who had ever thought of it before?! Even our other shows like Choti si Zindagi and Karol Bagh have been different in their approach.

 

Today, channels are focused on genres like thriller, crime, family drama; but we have to answer the bigger question – are GECs ready to get into genres like dark comedy, science fiction or a violent tale? There is an on-going debate regarding this because most GECs cater to family audiences. So one does have to take this into account. Therefore, for me, the bigger question is, how many genres are GECs open to?

 

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