Shailesh Kapoor: 2014-15: Time for Hindi Non-Fiction Overhaul

17 Jan,2014

By Shailesh Kapoor


While fiction has driven the core viewer base of Hindi GECs over the last two decades, non-fiction programming has gained increasing importance over time. Being celebrity-centric, non-fiction content in India is expensive. But its ability to get new audiences to a channel, and its ability to create excitement in the advertiser community, are reasons enough for channels to invest in this category of content aggressively.


But 2013 has not been the best year for non-fiction content. Many heavyweight shows have struggled to perform, despite being successes in their previous seasons, some as recently as 2012. Shows that had seasons averaging 2.5-4 TVR have struggled to cross the 1.5-2 TVR mark in 2013-14.


Examples can be found in plenty. KBC didn’t deliver in its seventh season. Currently on-air shows NachBaliye and Dance India Dance have been at viewership levels of about half their previous seasons. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, a pioneering non-fiction format, struggled to make any impact whatsoever in its last season that ended in Jan 2013.


Some of the relatively younger formats (in terms of their on-air existence) such as India’s Got Talent, have done better. But otherwise, the writing seems clearly on the wall. Traditional non-fiction formats may not be here to stay.


You can attribute the failure of one season of a successful format to content execution. There have been non-performing seasons of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa in the past too, where the issues were evident at the jury composition level itself. But the show could bounce back in the following season after making corrections.


But the non-performance of the big daddies over the last year is certainly not attributable only to content. NachBaliye, for example, has the same format, anchors, jury and treatment style as the last season. Yet, it is rating 40% lower this time, on the same platform in the same slot.


So what’s changed over half a decade? The answer is: A generation. It is well-researched that non-fiction’s core audience are the youth (though KBC has stood out as an exception to that). If we take 20 as a reasonable age of the bull’s eye audience of most non-fiction formats, and juxtapose it with the marriageable age in India, we get this fascinating piece of insight: That many early adopters of non-fiction shows that went on-air in India in 2006-09 would have got married in the last two years. (In case you are unaware of the dramatic impact of marriage on TV content preferences of an Indian viewer, I urge you to explore this fascinating subject).


The new core audience of non-fiction programming today is someone who was a teenager (13-16) when these formats first went on-air. These teenagers are now into college, and how many college students cling onto what they thought was cool in their school days?


Why would it suddenly all show up as an issue in 2013? Difficult to say, but the idea of 2013 being a tipping point is plausible.  After all, non-fiction content really gathered steam in India in 2006, and hence, the seven-year generation rule would suggest that 2013 was set to be the critical, watershed year.


I’m sure the leading channels will find the solutions over the next year or two, with a mix of new formats and refurbished versions of the existing ones. The one who does it the best will have a lot to gain.


A chapter of non-fiction content in India has closed, and a new one is opening up. Let’s now wait to find out who the authors are.


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



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