Star strategy: keep reinventing hit shows

MUMBAI: If the formula works do not mess with. That is the line that Star India is taking regarding programming strategies for this quarter. Sony Entertainment is planning a whole new line-up of shows come November; Zee TV has announced a programming strategy pivoted around new movie releases; but for Star Plus, the name of the game is reinvention.

According to Star Plus' programming head Tarun Katial, there is very little scope for attempting new formats or shows at the moment because across most time bands, whether it be prime time, afternoons or Sunday mornings, the lead Hindi entertainment channel had established a clear dominance.

One slot that Katial did not include in the list though is weekend programming. This is worth nothing because according to the information issued by hit soap factory Balaji Telefilms, a big-budget one-hour weekend soap Kaalki is scheduled to be launched in November on the channel. On Kaalki, Katial says: "Discussions are in process but nothing has been finalised as yet." Brings to mind motormouth Shekhar Suman's talk show Simply Shekhar that India's answer to Jay Leno had initially announced would be airing on Star Plus. When it finally launched though, it was on Zee TV.

Katial says the main focus for Star is to rework the storylines of shows on air rather than introduce any new stuff at least till the year is out. The new year would see some new launches, among them the two most high-profile being an Amitabh Bachchan hosted show and the Indian version of the smash hit Pop Idol. Katial clarifies that still a final call has to be made as to whether to introduce a new series of KBC or launch a new format show for Bachchan.

As for the immediate plans that Star has on the programming front, Katial says the plotlines of some of the top shows will see a big shift in course, with the central protagonists being swapped around.

Among the shows that will see plotline tweaks are the hour-long weekly dramas Kehta Hai Dil (airing Tuesdays at 9 pm), which will see changes in November, and Sanjivani (Wednesdays 9 pm), set to see a seismic shift in the plot by mid-October.

What is exciting Katial the most though is the ratings battle currently on between entertainment television's

Number 2 and 3 shows - the daily soaps (both from theBalaji stable) Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki and Kasauti Zindagi Kay. Kasauti might even surge ahead of Kahaani is his reading, and this climb has been due to the strengthening of the storyline that Kasauti is witnessing, says he. Kahaani is also undergoing changes but nothing near as drastic as the 20-year leap that the ratings queen Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi witnessed recently, he avers.

On the gameshow front meanwhile, the successful karaoke show hosted by Sonu Nigam, Kismey Kitnaa Hai Dam, begins a new season from 10 October. The show, which has been loosely modelled on Night Fever that airs on Channel 5 in the UK, is about to see a change in format for the fresh series. This time round the show has taken strands from Furore, a popular Spanish gameshow that offers "musical comedy mayhem."

Queried as to what Star was serving up on the movies front, Katial says the next new release that will air on the channel is the Bobby Deol, Akshay Kumar starrer Ajnabee. Asked as to how Star hoped to counter Zee's reported plans to mop up the rights to all new movies, Katial is quite emphatic. "We're not going to get into that game. That's being reactive. We will continue to buy films the way we've been doing so far."

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