Television

Into the mind of a TV network programmer

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How does a programmer really know he/she has hit the bull‘s eye with a story? Thinking of concepts and genres all the time; he/she could be toying with ten elusive ideas at one time.And when the time comes, might well chuck all the scripts in favour of an eleventh one.

It was with this end in mind that Indiantelevision.com decided to pick the brains of the people who bring the likes of Tulsi, Jassi and Simran into our homes. Some of them could well be referred to as the best programming brains in the country; professionals who have a natural flair for conceiving the right mix.

Mass entertainment channels (DD, Star Plus, Sony, Zee, Sahara) continued to dominate television space both in viewership and revenue in 2004, according to TAM Media Research. Hindi entertainment channels account for 40 per cent of the country‘s TV viewership and 52 per cent of total advertisement revenue

In a series of free wheeling conversations, these creative powerhouses reveal their likes, dislikes and offer their take on the programming paradigm shifts that have and are impacting the Hindi entertainment television landscape.

As Star India‘s Deepak Segal puts it, "Most of it is really on gut feel. But, yes - the rejection rate of stories and scripts is also very, very high." Then there are those like SET India‘s Tarun Katial who, along with gut feel, also swear by qualitative market research. Whereas Markand Adhikari feels the Indian audiences are not really ready for something new.

Before getting into some serious programmerspeak, a quick scan down memory lane of the shows that left their imprint on Hindi entertainment television is in order. Years back we had chartbusters like Hum Log and Buniyaad, which took the country by storm. Then came what was arguably the biggest TRP chartbuster of all time, Ramayan. After that however, it has been private C&S television that has set the agenda. There was the era of Tara and Amaanat on Zee TV, then came the subtle themes like Saans and Sailaab.

Cut to 2000 with the super success of KBC and then of course came in the Balaji K series that have endured even after the ultimate game show ended its run.

So what could the next big thing be?

While content remains king on the general entertainment channels; the search is also constantly on for the next big concept cutting across all SECs and markets. And with other niche channels eating into their pie, the task seems to be getting tougher. At the end of the day, they have to produce programming that brings in audiences and revenues. So, where does the buck stop?

In terms of content, the buck clearly stops at the programming head. He/she would funnel all the programming coming on to the channel along with a team of producers and creative professionals. With a large-scale perspective on content, a sense of creativity, the programming head should also be alert to strategy, business and advertising angles. The role can actually get very fuzzy at times. Many feel the thinking and preferences of a programming head can often be seen in the final look of the channel.

"We‘ve definitely evolved as an industry"

Deepak Segal - Executive VP Content and Communications, Star India

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"I‘ve trained myself to like what the viewer likes"

Tarun Katial - Business Head, SET India

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"We have definitely progressed technically but conceptwise we‘ve gone back in time"

Markand Adhikari - Vice Chairman and Managing Director, SAB TV

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"TV is a progressive medium and content is the main driver"

Karuna Samtani - COO, SaharaOne

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"India is too volatile a market to easily predict any definite trend"

Ashwini Yardi - Vice President, Programming, Zee TV

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