Shailesh Kapoor: Split Personalities: TVF Pitchers & Rural Ratings

04 Sep,2015

By Shailesh Kapoor


Two strikingly contrasting events highlighted the week that was. On Sunday, the season finale episode of TVF Pitchers went online. During the week that followed, BARC India conducted roadshows to share more information on rural ratings. I have written about both these topics here over the last few weeks, but their proximity in time is fascinating, even though it is purely coincidental.


TVF Pitchers achieved a major milestone by featuring on the IMDB Top 250 TV shows charts, where it is currently ranked no. 38, ahead of Friends, Dexter, House Of Cards, and the likes. The show has also received considerable, some would say disproportionate, attention from online media. One such article (by Quartz India) is headlined “How an Internet show on startups delivered a stinging blow to Indian TV”.


TVF Pitchers has watershed qualities to it, a lot more than its predecessor Permanent Roommates. The latter was a romcom, and while it differed from our regular television fare, it was not entirely unfamiliar, especially if you have seen some of the many Bollywood romcoms over the last decade.


But TVF Pitchers enters an area Indian entertainment has never been able to capture authentically – the corporate world. Barring an odd Rocket Singh, most films that have dabbled in this world have caricaturised it, none less than one that was called “Corporate” itself (in which a management trainee gets a cabin to herself, of a size that most CEOs would be envious of). In our TV serials, we hardly see offices anyway, and work is just an excuse to get the men out of the house.


TVF Pitchers manages to bring an authenticity of portrayal, in turn getting the appreciation of a fairly large corporate population of India, across industries. It is corporate but not elitist. It also does not have the shackles of censorship (or self-censorship) around it. It is just intelligent fun.


At about 2 million views per episode, the numbers speak for themselves. But the perspective of mass vs. niche should not be lost here. 2 million is less than 10% of the viewership of an episode of a typical hit Hindi TV show. And these are shows that have hundreds (often thousands) of episodes. We are talking of different degrees altogether.


But the 10% mark may just be the first step in a journey that the ‘parallel TV movement’ may have to make over the next five years. I say “TV” because that’s really what it will compete against. We would need more companies like TVFs and more shows in more genres to grow the market. There are a few others that already exist, but they lack the belief and confidence that shines through TVF Pitchers.


Our mainstream television couldn’t possibly care less about these developments. The rural ratings are round the corner, and the gap between the two worlds is bound to widen. But if the 10% number grows to even 20% over the next year or two, more advertisers, especially those targeting the bigger cities, will begin to evaluate their options. It’s “our kind of TV” after all.


But lest we should get carried away, every online show will not be a TVF Pitchers. And therein lies the real problem, the one of scalability.


Let’s see what the future has in store. Besides, of course, Permanent Roommates Season 2.


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