Sanjeev Kotnala: Will New Year Eve programming on TV ever be exciting?

07 Jan,2015

By Sanjeev Kotnala


If you hear audiences crib and promise they will not be watching TV next year on Dec 31, you know they are lying. They have said it many times before and will say again, but on December 31, 2015, the magic screen at homes will be alive with dead programing.


It’s a new problem that audiences face, just like a woman staring at her collection of dresses. No problem if there is no choice like in the DD era. No problem with excess good quality content as in the late 1990s. Now, there are enough programmes, but none that stands out, is really good and is something people wait to watch.


We know that there is an increasing trend of citizens staying home to celebrate New Year with friends and family. It is true across the country.  The so-called festivity associated with the event and the parties is more of a rarity than the practice. And in this situation, more they stay inside higher the probability of watching TV. Normally it should be an opportunity for TV Channels. Sadly, the truth is a lot different. TV programming in the last hours of 2014 was fighting to redefine mediocrity.


New Year Eve programming is a complex proposition. It is not easy one to design, execute and monetise. Footage of celebration fills news channels and that is invariably fireworks and few parties in open public arenas. Old programmes are re-edited and served by entertainment channels. Sadly, not having any options the audience just bears the pain, cribs and watches. Even DTH has failed to serve a dedicated programme that could be financially viable. Really rich and mega. Something that the viewer will pay and watch seems like a far-fetched idea.


This surely is the recipe for disaster. A self-fulfilling cycle of unstated unfulfilled expectations. Channels fight to get the Khans. Khans fight to get the eyeballs. No one succeeds in engaging and exciting the audience. Good old DD continues to shell out dead programming, which satisfies few audiences with bland taste. There you know what will be served.


In the case of private channels, the expectation build-up is as huge as the ultimate disappointment it serves. Colors bring something called World Talent Night, Star brings an awards show, Sony, an old function for the nth time, Zee does nothing different. Mug shots of celebrity audience, the freeze frames of Khans and Priyanka Chopra in her dancing avatar hop from one screen to another. Channel differentiation becomes irrelevant for the dejected audience and a tough nut to crack for the channel owners.


It seems the industry has given up on this opportunity.  We may never see a time when TV will really fight its Idiot box branding. Before we crib more, let us acknowledge that there are reasons for channels for not attempting much.


Most of the country and definitely in the HSM area, New Year Eve is an opportunity of collective viewing and celebration with family members. But a huge part of audience trapped within social norms is denied the right of celebration. Women must pack up early and get confined to the internal part of houses. Where what they are waiting for is another shout for water or snacks. Their entertainment is usually seeing their men getting slowly tricked into drunken state.


For an average citizen, life is full of expectation and disappointments. December 31 is no different. With temperatures dipping in the north and central India, potential audience tend to sleep early. That leaves the metro in-home-celebration junkies. By 11pm they are in high spirits. Other than the momentarily orgasmic shouts of countdown it does not really matter when the year turns over a new number. And TV programmes have anyway lost its focus by 1030pm.


The marketers know this reality more than media planners, programmers and the media critic. It is impossible currently to find a true sponsor of such programmes. The planners in their teams knowing and understanding the customer psyche advise against it. The aperture of audience to receive a new message is limited. The repeated exposure to build a desired frequency is not a good idea, for the audience this is more of an irritant. So, it makes no sense for the channels or the sponsor to invest in something that only consumers want without interruptions. And a programme that is presented as a value-add to the existing set of channel sponsors is never going to get desired funding.


May be we need to create a differential property. Maybe a Rs 100 ticket lotto draw on TV with midnight ‘life changing win’ by a factor of million times. May be some really slick first=time programming or even the direct TV premiere of PK-II.  An Indo-Pak 20-20 match.  Or a dream UNI-PROGRAMME across channels. The same programme across channels. If during sports this can happen cross channels, it can be possible for New Year Eve too. There does exist possibility to do to midnight on  the 31st , what Mahabharata or Ramayana did for  Sunday 10am slot. Maybe it is too much to ask and dream for. Maybe there are ideas within channels but no passion and enthusiasm to run with it.


So, if on December 31, 2014, you were at home glazy eyed looking at the insipid fare being belted out on your TV sets, think again before cribbing. Maybe you need to decide, next year you will have your own plan which will not depend upon channels entertaining you.
Sanjeev Kotnala is Head Catalyst at INTRADIA and believes that the best way forward for an Organization is to enhance the potential of  internal teams instead of depending on external resources. He is a management- marketing-media consultant and also conducts specialised workshops in the area of ‘Harvesting and LiberatingIdeas’ and Innovation.  To contact email or tweet at s_kotnala visit The views expressed here are his own.


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