Indian soaps help Sri Lankan channel top charts

MUMBAI: The Kyunki's and Kasautii's of Indian television are not just helping Indian channels stay on top of the ratings charts, they seem to be helping Sri Lankan broadcasters too.

Sinhalese Sirasa channel run by Maharaja Television in the island country, seem to have benefited from the dubbed versions of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, which runs as Maha Gedara and Kasautii Zindagi Kay, which is Praveena in its Sinhalese avataar on Sirasa.

The dubbed Kasautii, in fact, launched in February 2005 on Sirasa, on a prime time slot that already had tough competition for the ratings. The competition's ratings hovered around 11-12 vis-à-vis Sirasa's 2-3 before launching Praveena at that slot. Praveena, according to Maharaja Television CEO Aditya Ray, started off with a TVR of 11.3 on its launch day and has in the latest data available, settled to an average of 8.0.

While big Tamil hits like Chiththi that completed its successful run on Maharaja's Tamil Channel Shakthi some months ago, have now been adapted for Maharaja's Sinhala channel Sirasa, it is the Hindi soaps that are being lapped up by the Sinhala viewers for their cultural similarity, believes Ray.

It isn't just the soaps, but even SABTNL's Office Office, that runs as Samawenna Sir on Sirasa on the weekends that has caught viewers' fancy, says Ray. The revamped Sirasa, after Ray took charge in June 2004, has also been running a branded block called HIT TV, comprising sub-titled Hindi films, on afternoons since almost its inception about seven years back.

The strategy to get in the dubbed soaps has apparently paid off. According to Ray, Maha Gedara and Praveena have already helped Sirasa climb to the number one position at prime time from its earlier third or fourth rank. It is also the No. 1 Channel on weekdays, although in overall channel share it remains at a strong number two position, behind the established state-owned Rupavahini channel.

Quoting Lanka Market Research Bureau (IMRB's Lankan operation) data, Ray says that Sirasa's average prime time channel share has climbed to 26.9 as per the latest data from its earlier level of 18.7 during the time he took charge of this Sri Lankan TV station and shifted its programming focus more towards the Hindi soaps, while Rupavahini's share declined marginally from 26.8 to 24.2.

Sirasa's all day channel share too has grown from 17.1 to 23.6, but it still needs to match up to Rupavahini's 24.5. Ray says an increased focus on weekends, by bringing in big budget talent shows on the lines of Indian Idol, as well as game shows on the lines of Sahara's Dial One or Jeeto, will be employed to boost channel share further.

The channel is also scouting the Indian scene for some shows that can be imported for adaptation or dubbing. SABTNL, says Ray, is a 'friendly organisation' which has been collaborating with Maharajas for some of its productions, while the Sri Lankan broadcaster is also keenly pursuing Star and Zee for acquiring software.

(This report was filed by the reporter before she flew off to France to get for us a complete lowdown on the MIPDOC proceedings)

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