'The GEC market has disintegrated into smaller units with niche regional preferences'-By Star India EVP marketing Anupam Vasudev

MUMBAI: The Hindi general entertainment channel (GEC) space is constantly changing and churning out fresh opportunities.

In my opinion, it has been a year of shows rather than channels in spite of what everyone would like to say. The viewer has been totally spoilt for choice with the wide and eclectic array of entertainment options being laid out in front of him / her to savour and to get hooked on to. Channels have had to outdo themselves in terms of their offerings - leave alone outdoing their competition to attract eyeballs and to keep them glued to their show / channel. As viewership gets fragmented, diversification of content on TV is the need of the hour. It is an extremely challenging scenario that a broadcaster faces today.

Also, the market has disintegrated into smaller units with niche regional preferences. Even the share of Hindi general entertainment within the "Hindi Speaking Markets" vary considerably. One extreme is represented by the Hindi belt markets like Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh which are heavy Hindi GE viewers and the other extreme is represented by markets like West Bengal and Maharashtra which are heavy regional consumers. We saw this as one more opportunity to create higher level of viewer satisfaction. 

With competition heating up and the saas-bahu image that Star Plus had to shake off, we came up with a host of innovative, fresh and creative content to entertain our audiences this year. The channel also decided to increase its physical connection with our audience by creating consumer experiences out of our programmes.

Let me share with you some examples of this year‘s programme launches and corresponding activities we undertook. We started the year with the launch of ‘Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai‘. Star Plus had the mega launch in the exotic gardens of Rambagh Palace, Jaipur. 50 couple winners, which were a result of a compatibility test, took their marriage vows for a second time in celebration of their love for each other. This programme topped the TRP charts with its sustained performance week after week! Upholding traditional Indian beliefs and value systems, the show soon captured every Indian household‘s fancy, becoming the most promising primetime show on Star Plus after the departure of the ‘K‘ series from the channel.

With the launch of ‘Sabki Ladli Bebo‘ in April 2009, Star Plus announced its annual property Ladli Week Celebration where the brand partnered with the KC Mahindra Educational Trust NGO- to start Project Nanhi Kali.

A fund raiser initiative called Star Plus‘ Project Laadli celebrated the Girl Child Week from 13 - 17 April and received tremendous response from the viewers and media. Children from Project Nanhi Kali had fun spending time with their favourite stars - Bebo (Shiv Shakti) and Kuku Narang (Kanwaljeet) from ‘Sabki Laadli Bebo‘ on the sets.

Little girls from Nanhi Kali had the opportunity to eat fun meals at McDonald‘s with Akshara (Hina Khan) from Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hain, Shaurya (Saurabh Pandey) and Suhani (Sriti Jha) from Shaurya Aur Suhani. We set up Signature Walls for consumers across 52 Big Bazaar and 21 Sia Jewellery outlets in India. These received more than 51,000 messages during the Laadli Week Celebration, out of which more than 30,000 viewers contacted Nanhi Kali to contribute for this noble cause!

In June 2009, came ‘Star Vivah‘ - the first ever matrimonial show on Indian television for all those searching for their ideal life partner. ‘Star Vivah‘ provided the biggest platform for prospective brides and grooms to find their life partner, thus simplifying the process of the most important and sacrosanct decision of one‘s life i.e. marriage. The show took a huge social step by propagating an anti-dowry stance and promoting gender equality on the show. All participants were dissuaded from exchanging dowry. The show also featured socially oppressed people such as widows, handicapped individuals and divorcees, hence giving them a chance to start their lives afresh.

August 2009 saw Star Plus launch an emotional, inspiring & heart warming chat show ‘Tere Mere Beach Mein‘ with ace choreographer turned director, Farah Khan. This was not your regular celebrity chat show about fame and stardom but about their lives away from the arc lights!

Digital teams created online bidding and auction with Ebay. On the show celebrities gave away various items from their personal favourites for auction and the proceeds were shared with an NGO Sneha. Viewers in large numbers participated to bid for these items on Ebay. The show garnered a whopping 3.3 TVR with its opening episodes, becoming the only television chat show to open with such numbers!

Star Plus started a movement with the second season of ‘Aap Ki Kachehri‘ with the intention to empower viewers taking the message of "television se zindagi tak" literally. We organised a ‘Walkathon with Dr Kiran Bedi‘ in Indore, Ahmedabad and Lucknow along with eminent social workers, educationists and media personalities. In Mumbai, we tapped the life line of the city - the local trains - to create awareness of the "Aap Ki Kachehri" movement. This train ride with Kiran Bedi attracted a huge number of viewers as they joined her in the movement impromptu.

In October 2009, ‘Aap Ki Kachehri‘ took another meaningful step forward by launching a path-breaking CSR initiative ‘Aap Ki Kachehri - Aap Ke Dwaar‘ in Delhi and Lucknow. This involved a programme that trained people in dispute resolution; trained NGOs in dispute resolution and effective mediation with the aim to work towards building a more peaceful and productive society.

The second season of ‘Baa Bahu aur baby‘ was launched in October 2009 with baby‘s wedding - the biggest wedding on Indian television. The entire cast traveled across key cities in Gujarat to collect wishes for Baby. Star Plus dressed up Ahmedabad to welcome Birju‘s baraat - a grand, visual treat that completely floored people. Baa, Pravin Bhai & Gattu (prominent characters from the show) greeted Birju atop a decorated horse. The event was accompanied by music and many Ahmedabadi baraati‘s dancing away reliving the experience, which was followed by Baby & Birju exchanging garlands. This was the first ever fiction show to be back in season two on viewer demand! The second season of the show also gave consistent performance on the charts.

A large percentage of India resides in the villages and towns and many of them come to our metros to earn their livelihoods. Taking cognizance of this fact, Star Plus came up with ‘Tere Mere Sapne‘ in October 2009 - a story depicting the journey of one such migrant who steps into a challenging new world and how he endeavours to come to terms with a new life and city. To connect with our audience, Sarju, the protagonist of the show, visited Lucknow where he learnt auto driving, cooking and vegetable selling - skills that he will need to survive in the tough city of Mumbai. In Delhi, Sarju visited a migrant colony to learn about their difficulties and how they cope with it.
The show touched the hearts of viewers and it received the highest recall in its launch week amongst its target viewers as they were able to relate to the concept, culture and emotion of the protagonist!

With ‘Sach Ka Samna‘, Star Plus took programming to a new level. It completely floored audiences as they didn‘t know what to expect from this show! We created platforms for people to show courage and bare their soul by speaking the truth through a medium that is visually impact full. We, therefore, created Saccho Ki Toli which by its movement and appearance in high catchments areas gained momentum and buzz.

21 promoters wearing pure white long robes with numbers 1-21 on their robes and a funny ‘Sach‘ about them behind their back moved in groups at VT station, Mumbai and lined up in chronological order. Rajeev Khandelwal, the host of the show, made a public appearance with the ‘Saccho ki toli‘ and invited people to come forward, take a T-Shirt, write their truth and wear this T-shirt to join the ‘Saccho Ki Toli‘. ‘Sach Ka Samna‘ proved to be the first Indian reality show with a launch episode gaining 4.2 TVR, the only reality show to have received such number in last two years. The show maintained a constant high through the season on the TRP charts in the late primetime segment.

With the recently launched ‘Pratigya‘, Star Plus‘ newest protagonist Pratigya gathered support from hundreds of women who joined in a Human Chain organised at Nariman point as a part of Star Plus‘ ‘Meri Pratigya‘ campaign. This Human chain also attracted protagonists from Star Parivaar who stood together and pledged their support against disrespect and mistreatment of women.

At Star Plus, we‘ve had great success with industry-defining shows like ‘Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlaata Hai‘ and ‘Sach Ka Saamna‘ and are ending the year on a high with our recent launches - ‘Pratigya‘ and ‘Music Ka Maha Muqabla‘.

Going forward, Star Plus is going to further raise the bar in programme innovation and will ensure that its audiences will have the best that televised entertainment can offer.

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