Television

A 'Colors'ful decade

Success of Hindi GEC spawned a host of regional language replications

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MUMBAI: It seems just like yesterday. How oft we have heard that phrase being spoken. So much so that it appears banal. However, in the case of Colors – the general entertainment channel from the now Reliance Industries majority-owned Viacom18 – it is so apt. 10 years have gone by since it started.

Twitterland has been buzzing with tweets from Viacom18 COO Raj Nayak, Colors itself, and nominated managing director Sudhanshu Vats celebrating the achievement of the landmark.

And why not? It seems not so long ago that Colors was flagged off under the baton of programming head Ashvini Yardi and the then CEO Rajesh Kamat. The former today is a successful producer and Bollywood icon Akshay Kumar’s production partner. The latter manages funds and is invested in the media space.

Colors disrupted the status quo – and how. At launch stage, expensive loss leaders like Khatron Ke Khiladi hosted by Akshay Kumar, accompanied by path breaking rural subject shows like Na Aana Is Des Laado, Balika Vadhu and Uttaran delivered a breath of fresh air to audiences, who stayed glued to the channel. This gave it unprecedented viewership ratings and made existing leaders Star Plus, Zee TV and Sony Entertainment raise their eyebrows in surprise, and later creased their brows with worry. It succeeded at a time when two other efforts, NDTV Imagine and Real Broadcasting, flopped and folded up. Both had big money backing them. And, no one expected Colors to be any different. The name itself was pretty oddball.

However, fully charged up distribution, sales and marketing teams – led by Kamat, then promoters Raghav Bahl, and then group CEO Haresh Chawla – worked day and night to make it a success.  Ambition ran pretty deep. With failure not an option, there was only one path to beat, that of victory over India’s audiences.

Colors shot up the viewership charts dislodging leaders Star and Zee from their perches and carved out its place in the top 3 GEC sweepstakes. Of course, money had been burnt during startup as investment, and the cash burn continued. But the advertising and marketing community caught on quick and started ploughing media spends into the channel.

The Colors rosy tale continued until both Kamat and Ashvini departed, leaving a vacuum. And, like earlier, a surprise candidate was plonked in the drivers’ seat: Raj Nayak – a professional with experience of selling Star Sports and ESPN, then Star Plus in its early humungous success days, later NDTV and then with his own venture Aidem. Quizzical looks went around relating to the selection.

But Raj adapted quickly to the creative demands and brought in a former Sony programming head Manisha Sharma to help and fine-tune the selection of fictional and non –fiction shows. He continued to bet big on shows such as Bigg Boss, invested oodles of money on the Anil Kapoor-starrer 24, and went the mythological, fantasy and superstition way with shows such as Shani, Naagin, Chandrakanta, Chakravartin Ashoka Samrat and formats like Rising Star, Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa, India's Got Talent, the superhit comedy show Comedy Nights with Kapil etc. . Most of Raj’s gambles worked. Shows like 24 and detective series Dev got him plaudits galore for investing in good and edgy content, while the others got the channel  eyeballs.

And in Colors’ tenth year, it looks like there’s no stopping Raj and the colourful team.  Firmly entrenched as a serious contender in the GEC leadership sweepstakes, Colors has spawned extensions in different languages, replicating the Hindi GEC’s success. A change of management twice – once when Raghav sold out to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance and recently when in joint venture Viacom18 American giant Viacom ceded majority to Reliance – has not dampened any spirits. It has only buoyed Raj, Sudhanshu and their merry men (and women).

More so when Ambani at a Viacom18 event in Mumbai late last year, told Sudhanshu --- and over hundred guests present --- that having invested time and money in the telecom venture Jio, it was time to devote some time to the TV venture, comprising GECs and news channels.

As the celebrations for a decade of existence continue, we at indiantelevision.com doff our hats to the Colors team and wish it success after success.

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