2016: Television’s Tough Year

16 Dec,2016

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

We are nearing the end of 2016. It’s been one of the more, if not the most, lacklustre years for the television business since the start of satellite television more than 25 years ago.

 

The defining television highlight of the year would be that it was the year when the transition from the old ratings method run by TAM, to the new one run by BARC India, was completed. BARC India launched in mid-2015, but it took some time for the dust to settle and the new numbers to acquire normative status. That has happened, despite stray voices that still compare the old system to the new.

 

Leave aside this big industry-level change, and some others on the regulatory front, 2016 did not have anything substantive to offer on the content side. There were no big channel launches headlining the year. And by and large, the hit shows from 2008-2014 continued to rule the roost in most GEC genres, Hindi or regional.

 

Earlier this year, I wrote about us being in the Dark Age of Indian Television. Six months later, the argument only gets stronger. In an era when media proliferation is so high that it has acquired nuisance value in many ways, not moving forward with the times can be a catastrophe of no small proportion. Because if you won’t, the world around will anyway.

 

The year marked good activity on the digital content front. Netflix and Amazon Prime launches bookended the year, and brought more scale and corporatisation to the digital content universe, which so far had seen only flashes of creative brilliance in the middle of a lot of mediocrity. Can SVOD be the next big thing in a market like India, where you get 200+ channels at a total price of less than Rs 10 a day? The jury is out on that one.

 

In the absence of entertainment content breaking new grounds, it ended up being a year where two heavily male-dominated genres found traction, namely Sports and News.

 

It’s been a very good year for the Indian cricket team, and a particularly good year for Virat Kohli, and that helped cricket viewership. The Rio Olympics got good coverage, especially with two medals for India in the last week, after a frustrating first two weeks.

 

The news front had many stories to tell, right from Arnab Goswami’s exit from Times Now to the demonetisation saga that started on November 8. The latter is still a story in development. It may not move out of the headlines in a hurry, especially because it will drive the election agenda in key states in early 2017.

 

Even as news prospered, the two biggest entertainment businesses in India – Hindi television and Hindi films – are in a tough phase they would love to get out of. The stagnation that started in 2014-15 is now clear and apparent for even the ostrich to see.

 

All eyes on 2017 to fix what’s definitely broken.

 

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