said soaps on television are passe? Fatigued and routine
kitchen politics maybe! But have they stopped delivering?
Are they no more an advertiser's dream? Have they
stopped irking competition?
least the three Ks in Star Plus have beaten the track:
Four years running and they are still going strong.
Kyunki saas bhi kabhie thi, Kahaani ghar
ghar kii, and Kasautii Zindagi Kay have
not only sustained their ratings but also travelled
to become brands.
they started, Star Plus was languishing as a poor
third most-watched general entertainment channel.
Then came the Amitabh Bachchan-hosted Kaun Banega
Crorepati (KBC), the Indian version of the international
hit show Who Wants to be a Millionaire and the
channel catapaulted into leadership position.
KBC were the three daily soaps from the Balaji Telefilms
stable. Launched in mid-2000 and early 2001, these
shows have outlasted KBC and helped Star Plus retain
its dominant position. In fact, Star Plus had nearly
five times as much viewership of its nearest rival
Sony by September 2003.
back to 2000, the year Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu
thi launched. The show garnered an average rating
of 6.4 that year in the CS 4+ six metro markets, according
to TAM data. In 2001, there was almost a 50 per cent
spike in ratings with the soap cloaking 12.04 TVRs.
The show sustained its high ratings in 2002 and 2003
with 11.50 TVRs and 11.30 TVRs. Nothing has changed
this year. Kyunki.. has recorded an average rating
of 11.42 TVRs and a peak rating of 19.41 in CS 4+
across all Hindi speaking markets for the week ended
16 October, 2004.
story of Kahaani... is no different. The family
saga not only drew in audiences from the start but
also grew them. In the debut year, Kahaani...saw an
average rating of 3.09 TVRs in the CS 4+ (six metros).
But in 2001 this climbed up to an average of 7.85
TVRs. And in 2002, it touched double digit ratings
at 10.37 while in 2003 it maintained an average of
10.17 TVR. There is a marginal dip this year with
an average TVR of 9.58.
began with an average of 4.44 TVR. In 2002, the
ratings improved to 7.51 TVRs. This further jumped
to 9.14 TVRs in 2003. The ratings this year is still
strong at 8.83 TVRs.
what has been the recipe of their success? On the
face of it, the formula seems pretty straightforward.
A simple story, but led by strong concepts.
Centre for advocacy and research head Akhila Shivadas,
"All these three serials came at a time when
people were looking for something different. These
offerings were unique. The experimentation with a
new telling format also was an instant hit."
3 Ks were born at the right time. Hindi programming
at that stage had reached a juncture where audiences
were on the lookout for something new. Besides, the
shows raised the standards of Indian television in
terms of production values, show packaging, the introduction
of catchy title songs and opening montages. It brought
in aspirational lifestyles, stylised sets and a very
upmarket and glossy image which was never witnessed
reason behind the success, analysts say, is the cultural
message of the shows. They celebrated large joint
families and traditional women propagating traditional
worked in Star's favour was a clever programming strategy.
Capturing the 9.00 pm to 10.00 pm slot with KBC, the
channel rode on that success to build the 10.00 pm
to 11.00 pm slot. This ensured that it would still
dominate prime time programming, if KBC was to decline
in viewer popularity.
Plus has successfully funnelled audiences from one
show to another and has today a strong loyal base
of viewers, with original programming from 7.30 to
KBC started falling, Sony took the 9-10 pm band with
two leading shows Kkusum and Kutumb
which dominated the slot tilll mid-2002. Despite several
high profile attempts to regain lost audiences, Sony's
share in this band continued to erode. And Star Plus
had managed to retain its hegemony in prime time through
the three Ks.
The Tam data supports this. Star Plus' average ratings
was 13.2 TVRs, as compared to Sony's with 1.3 TVRs
India creative director Shailja Kejriwal attributes
the success of these soaps to its strong concepts.
"The biggest reason for the success of these
shows is the fact that they started off as concepts
and not stories. If you look at a serial like Kahin
Kisi Roz (KKR), that's a story and hence
is finite. All the three K's are concept driven. Kyunki
saas bhi kabhi bahu thi is a concept. It's basically
about saas and bahus and does not revolve around any
particular character in the story. Again Kahaani
Ghar Ghar Ki is a story of every family. So any
story can be incorporated into Kahaani; the
story is not about any particular character. Kasautii
Zindagi Kay,talking about the crossroads of life,
is again a strong concept. That's the essential difference
between these three K's and any other show across
three shows are similar in nature, built on a strong
foundation, with each addressing a different theme
in a family-driven saga. The result: Star Plus has
evolved as probably the strongest 'family brand' in
The second crucial ingredient was characterisation.
These soaps built on their characters more than the
story. Also, Balaji Telefilms, the production house,
picked talented unknown artists who stood out from
the clutter. The audience did not associate these
faces with previous serials.
Kejriwal, "An important ingredient was building
on characters and not the story. The idea is making
that character such a part of your life that you don't
tire of seeing them. You can get tired of a story.
For instance, Tulsi is a Pandit's daughter who got
married to a rich man's son and her life evolves around
the house. There is actually no story to her, if you
look at it. But what we did was built her character
as a strong ideal woman ."
In a concept driven serial, small plots are created
to build up characters. Once the character is built,
you follow the character. You want to see every action
of the character. If you go back to the beginning
of Kahaani... it didn't start off with Parvati's
story (the protagonist) at all. It started with one
of the daughters of the household who was married.
She was coming back home, leaving her husband and
one followed that woman's story for the first 16 -
20 episodes. So, what was interesting was that Parvati's
character was built by the stand that she took on
the situation. The idea is to build small plots in
a concept serial to build on the characters,"
build up of characters on an average, says Kejriwal,
takes place in the first 30 - 40 episodes. Every serial
has a lot of stories woven around it. Every story
on an average goes on for about 40 - 45 episodes.
By the 30th episode, one has to start sowing the seeds
for the next story.
the first 45 episodes in the case of Kahaani..
built up the protagonist, the following serials then
focussed on the antagonist (Pallavi). Then on, began
their clash which was the battle between the good
and evil. This formed the essence and the serial played
on this eternal conflict.
for these serials also were unique. Almost shot like
movie trailors, they struck an immediate chord with
the viewer who had never sampled anything like this
before. Star's promos have been crucial in drawing
viewers on a consistent basis. Star was the pioneer
in the building of the promo specialisation trend
and actually incorporated separate writers and producers,
says an analyst. Today, every channel has a dedicated
on-air promos team as it has become an essential part
of television packaging.
television analyst Shailaja Bajpai, "The fact
that all the three serials are the embodiment of being
ideal characters went a long way in creating a bond
with the viewers. Additionally, Ekta Kapoor managed
to fuse in tradition with certain elements of modernity.
The strong characters - be it a Komalika, a Prerna,
a Tulsi, a Parvati or a Pallavi - were so intensely
depicted that it made an immediate impact. Also the
slick presentation of these soaps were a visual treat
for the Indian audiences."
media analyst Sevanti Ninan, "The three serials
were based on market research as Star was looking
at widening their audiences and going beyond the metros.
Focus group discussions that were conducted by the
network gave them a fair idea of what viewers wanted
- a glimpse of their everyday lives. Star also incentivised
the production house on the delivery of ratings. So,
if the ratings were good on a show, a percentage was
given to the production house."
strategy behind sustained ratings, Kejriwal explains,
is about having a core and a shifting audience. "Some
of your audience grows up. But then there is also
a new set of audience coming in. So we have to always
take into account the psyche of the newer audiences
as everything changes in a four year cycle. This thought
process has to be incorporated. One has to keep understanding
this. The effort is really on how to make the shows
constantly innovative and contemporary. Like in Kahanni
we brought in some bikers who are dressed in leather
jackets and funky clothes. We could have launched
a new show with these people. But the idea is that
once you have a brand that has a huge loyal following,
you try to introduce a subtle change within to widen
your viewership base."
2002, CFAR conducted a reality check by doing a survey
on how average Indian families felt about the serial
and what was common to them and their own lives. The
findings revealed that 50 per cent of the respondents
found some similarities between the Aggarwal family
and their own lives and responded positively to certain
elements in the serial. Some of their quotes being:
Gupta: "Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki is my story
but only to an extent. We also saw our family disintegrating
over business. My daughter was of Shruti's age when
all that was happening. What I do find is that in
real life older members of the family (like Babuji
) are confused about their role. They
do not know how to hold the family together."
Singh:"People in Aligarh watch KGGK because we
like to watch Parvati. We like to see ourselves as
Parvati. She is the kind of daughter-in-law every
mother-in-law would like to have. My husband is extremely
busy with work, entrusting the entire family responsibility
to me. I have two young sons and am always trying
to bridge the generation gap between the youngsters
and the grandparents. In a sense, Parvati is also
been doing that."
all of them expressed growing discontentment with
the serial. What caused this discontentment? Many
of them were irked by the portrayal of women characters
in the serial. A few specifically complained about
it being "unrealistic," reducing the drama
to all kinds of improbabilities.
Mathur: "Pallavi's character is bordering on
the absurd. Parvati is no better. In fact, she makes
me sick. She is supposed to be the role model for
all daughters-in-laws. What message is she putting
out? She has been thrown out of the house and yet
she has chosen to be loyal to the same family! She
is stripped of all her dignity, made to beg and even
fall at Pallavi's feet."
Dargar: "Though, I have got into this habit of
watching it, I find the serial totally unrealistic.
200 crore ke baat karte hain _ how can it be a Kahani
Ghar Ghar Ki? And the characters keep transforming.
Parvati has changed her colours just now. Pallavi
has already been through personality transformation
`twice'. Such women cannot exist in real life."
Dargar quote above seems to be quite the jist of a
lot of bviewers of these serials. The point here is,
yes there are watching it, but thats becasue of they
now becoming virtual addicts. Many respondents have
actualy made secret resolves never to get hooked onto
to another serial like this again.
serials have over time, says Shivdas, ceased to become
talking points and reached a stage of saturation.
A Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin on Sony, on the other hand,
is still a talking point. Although that may not get
translated in ratings, these K serials have lost their
all these three family soaps have now started tilting
towards a thriller format. In Kyunki... there
is speculation on whether Tulsi will kill her own
kith and kin Ansh. In Kasutii.. there is the
whole mystery about the Anurags. At different peaks
these soaps adorn different formats. Interestingly,
none of these soaps have really been marketed like
all the other aggressive marketing ones seen today.
surviving in the continuously changing market conditions,
the foundation of these three serials have been very
strong. The brand and the product can be a definite
success if the concept and communications are well