“Non-fiction is expensive, hence need to strengthen fiction”: Siddharth Anand Kumar

MUMBAI: Vidya Balan’s famous line about entertainment sells, stay true to the television business as well.


With new channels launched and new genres explored every now and then, the production houses have a lot on their platter. One such production house, Colosceum, known for its non-fictional properties like Roadies, Splitsvilla recently got on board Siddharth Anand Kumar as scripted content head to strengthen its overall approach.


A graduate in filmmaking, he has worked as an assistant to Mira Nair during the making of Kamasutra (1995), as DOP and editor for Bobby Bedi during the production of the TV series Rajdhani (2000), and as the executive producer for Shekhar Kapur’s company Digital Talkies during which he oversaw the production of two feature films and the country’s first International Digital Film Festival (2001).


He has directed two films: Let’s Enjoy (2004), a film about a Delhi farmhouse party, and Semshook (2010), a coming of age story set in the Tibetan exile community. And his TV projects include Seven and Khotey Sikkey by Yash Raj Films on Sony and Mahabharat by Swastik Pictures on Star Plus.


“We have a partnership with Colosceum. And our aim is to bring in some really interesting new content into the Indian television which is currently happening and we want to be a part of it,” says Kumar while elaborating on his role.  “In the industry there is a position of content director and director and I will be mixing both these roles. It is also something which the channels want and are eager to do because it is the director who makes the show. And sometimes we have creative director who doesn't engage in day to day procedure of the show or while communicating with the broadcasters. We want to bridge that gap.”


He along with the Colosceum team is currently busy conceiving and pitching ideas to broadcasters, which will then be taken forward if the broadcaster shows interest.  


The production house is known for its seasonal shows, but with this hire it wants to strengthen its fiction side as well. Kumar goes on to explain why. “Colosceum had non-fiction bend but if you look at the trend, all the big production houses whether they are Endemol or Fremantle, you will see a small shift little away from non-fiction because non-fiction costs a lot. And the numbers that you get are pretty much the same as a hit fiction property. So, everyone understands that the return of investment is higher on fiction. Producers who have had a very strong non-fiction background like Colosceum need to partner with strong fiction heads to tell the broadcasters ‘look we have the right team in place’.”


Furthermore, he believes channels are now moving towards fiction. Stating the example of how Bindass, which once used to air shows like Big Switch and Dadagiri, today has fiction shows. Similarly Channel V and MTV have now become youth general entertainment channels (GECs).


Moreover, even GECs which offered their viewers two to three non-fictional properties over weekend, now only have one such property. 


“Take Colors for instance, apart from Jhalak Dikhla Ja it doesn't air any other non-fictional property on the weekend. I won’t take Comedy Nights with Kapil to be one as it is scripted. The trend is indicating that every channel is putting their money into one non-fiction show because they are expensive and rest on fiction,” he says and adds, “Right now we are in the phase when there is a greater demand for fiction than non-fiction. At some time, the circle might change again. So, this is a good time to generate some quality fiction content and strengthen it so we are able to serve the broadcaster in both the genres.”


Kumar believes that as audiences mature, the content will change as well and hence, channels are moving towards younger content as well as dealing with social issues apart from the regular saas-bahu dramas. Another aspect which is also a main reason for this shift in content today is the demand from the advertisers. “The consumer categories which are very hot at the moment are smartphones, cars and e-commerce, and they need to talk to a younger-skewed audience not only in metros but also in tier I and II cities where there is high aspirational power. Youth has more spending power because as one grows older, the commitments/priorities change. So advertisers need to talk to them and hence broadcasters need to create content for this audience.”


One needs to just turn on the TV to see who is advertising so if it’s a Karbonn mobile it doesn’t want to advertise on Saath Nibana Saathiya but need a show like Airlines or Shastri Sisters.


In the coming years, he proposes that as more and more people start consuming content on digital, production houses might have to start making specific content for that medium and also learn how to monetise it well. As media proliferates there is going to be more fragmentation and niche programming.


Hence, Colosceum will focus on creating tailor-made shows for broadcasters based on what that broadcaster wants in its programming lineup. Currently, the team has a lot of ideas on the platter and will soon approach broadcasters with the innovative and interesting ideas.


In his 12 years career, Kumar says that even today "we don’t know what the audience wants." There is still a lot of guess work even though there are various research agencies doing a lot of footwork. So when it comes to talking to the audience and seducing them with the work there is still a bit of hit and miss. “We usually have the tendency of coping what becomes a hit, but it won’t serve our purpose as we will start creating same content that will create fatigue amongst audiences.”


“We need to provide a varied content to audience which is also dynamic. So that we can learn what the audience wants,” he concludes.


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