Shailesh Kapoor: The Next GEC revolution is round the corner

07 Jun,2013

By Shailesh Kapoor


Since the start of the Hindi GEC genre in 1992 with the arrival of Zee TV, there have been two distinct events that can be termed “revolutionary”, in that they changed the dynamics of the genre significantly, impacting all stakeholders – broadcasters, advertisers and viewers – in turn.


The first such revolution came in 2000, with the launch of Kaun Banega Crorepati on Star Plus, shortly followed by Kyunkii Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki – daily serials that made their way to primetime, with a distinctly different visual and narrative treatment than what had been seen before. This revolution had “risk” written all over it, tales of which are now are a part of industry folklore.


The second revolution came eight years later, in 2008, with the launch of Colors. This was a revolution borne out of consumer dissatisfaction. The same Kyunkiis and Kahaanis, which had sparked off a paradigm change in 2000, were now considered hackneyed, and the consumer was starving for something new. But all she was getting was more of the same, barring an odd Jassi. Left with no options, she continued to watch what was being dished out, resulting in decent ratings for content that consumers positively hated at that point of time.


Finally, with the arrival of Colors, the much-needed alternative was there. Serials went out of palatial homes into the heartland of our vast country. Reality television made its presence felt like never before. Movies were finally being shown with sane amounts of break advertising. Colors offered all that was missing, opening up a new world for the GEC viewers. Other channels too followed suit, and reinvented themselves, moving away from the much-abused K-serials. Ironically, the channel that started it all, Star Plus, managed to make the transition beautifully in 2010.


1992. 2000. 2008. Get the eight-year pattern? Give or take a couple of years, and the next big GEC revolution is set to happen anytime 2014 onwards.


But it’s not just this eight-year math that I base my forecast on. There are substantive, almost telltale, signs that we are ready for the next big change in the Hindi GEC space. Here are three such signs:


1. Declining interest in existing content: There is a perceptible decline in interest in fiction content at the consumer’s end, especially in the bigger metros. This loss of interest is not with the genre, but with specific shows that they watch. A sense of sameness has come in, not so much in terms of stories but their treatment. Everything drags, is a common perception. Like 2008, this may not mean an immediate drop in ratings, but the dissatisfaction is fast growing.


2. Viability of big-ticket fiction: With digitization, broadcasters seem more equipped and confident to invest in big-ticket fiction. Initially, these may come as clutter-breakers or differentiators, such as 24 on Colors and Amitabh Bachchan’s recently-announced fiction show on Sony. But if the idea works, big-ticket fiction can become staple prime-time diet, not just the “other” option, bringing with them fresh talent and treatment.


3. Changing mood of the nation: There has been a visible change in the mood of the country over the last few years. We are way past the economic liberalization phase, that we now take for granted. The angst generated by governance issues, such as inflation, poor infrastructure and corruption, has been in the forefront in recent times. In a way, we may be in a new, digitally-packaged version of the 70s, when the ‘angry young man’ emerged as an iconic prototype. The equivalent today can be even more layered and interesting.


The question, hence, is not whether we will see a GEC revolution soon or not. The questions are, how soon will it happen, and who will benefit from it the most. The answer, if anyone had a definitive one, would be worth a million dollars.


Shailesh Kapoor is founder and CEO of media insights firm Ormax Media. He spent nine years in the television industry before turning entrepreneur. He can be reached at his Twitter handle @shaileshkapoor


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