MUMBAI: The TV production community was agog with the news that leading Hindi general entertainment channel Star Plus is stretching its weekday fiction prime time programming lineup to Saturday. But no official announcement was a-coming from it. However, the other leading GEC Colors has gone ahead and announced that it is extending four of its weekday fiction shows to Saturdays. And promotions are already underway.
Colors’ CEO Raj Nayak even went ahead and personally posted a promo on social networking sites – Facebook and Twitter - highlighting what was being planned.
Come Saturday, 1 February viewers will get to engage with Sanskaar, Sasural Simar Ka, Balika Vadhu and Madhubala between 7 pm and 9 pm.
“We implemented six days a week last year; we took a break as we needed to give our production teams and artistes a breather. Having taken a short interval, we are coming back six days a week,” remarks Nayak, adding that the experiment had worked well for the channel in 2013 and that is why it is being repeated.
Two promos are hammering this message out to viewers across all the channels of the Network 18 group.
The reason for choosing these particular shows is not their popularity but the time band they air in, says Nayak. Colors has two popular non-fiction properties – India’s Got Talent and Comedy Nights with Kapil – being telecast on the weekend at 9 pm and 10 pm respectively. However, the channel had nothing else to fill the slot prior to 9 pm. In the earlier weeks of January, it chose to telecast the summaries of two of its newly launched shows – Rangrasiya and Beintehaa, while last Saturday a special programme – Mirchi Top 20 – ran.
In fact, it is win-win situation for all parties associated. The production houses associated with these shows think that telecast of the shows on four extra days in a month gives the shows more visibility, also resulting in good GRPs. However, since the number of episodes per month are increasing, so is the pressure to deliver.
“But we try to balance that out by introducing parallel tracks and planning episodes much in advance,” says Saurabh Tewari from Nautanki Films that produces Madhubala, who also adds that the remuneration of almost everyone associated has also increased for the extra work.
Putting fiction shows on the weekend is also cheaper for Hindi GECs. New Hindi movies are becoming more and more expensive; big ticket non-fiction shows cost a bomb, thanks to the fat cheques dished out to film stars for becoming a part of them. Additionally, in the case of Colors, it is most likely going to put aside expensive properties on its second GEC Rishtey to build a connect with audiences. Hence, fiction shows, with a tab of Rs 7 lakh to 10 lakh and episode on an average are less of a drain on resources.
Advertisers have welcomed the weekend fiction deluge, says Nayak, adding. “they put their money where there is good content. All our advertisers who buy advertising on these shows will extend their buys to the weekend as well.”
Lodestar UM vice-president Deepak Netram - while accepting that moolah will be made - however, is more circumspect and cautious from the viewer’s viewpoint.
He says: “I am not too sure if the regular weekday fare would work during the weekend. Since the number of male audiences are more, non-fiction or special programmes work better.”
Netram opines that reason for Colors to extend its programming till Saturday could be because rival Star Plus is also walking the same path. He remarks: “The core audience of any GEC is the one which consumes fiction. Colors is probably wanting to retain its fiction show fans; and not lose them to a rival channel which is extending its fiction content to the weekend also,” he says.
Colors has already announced the D-day for its new programming tack: 1 February. Star Plus has not; but the buzz is that the date might well be 8 February. The battle for eyeballs on the weekend has just begun.