Television

Hindi GECs: A battle for eyeballs

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With the ongoing season of reality shows ending and viewers’ choice highly unpredictable, the past couple of months have seen Hindi General Entertainment Channels (GECs) and production houses scrambling to introduce newer, more creative fiction shows with never-seen-before content.

Indeed, the tearing hurry to replace empty slots and shows with poor TRPs has seen broadcasters deploy a fair bit of research and experimentation to serve up even more interesting fare to their audiences. So much so, it may well be a battle for eyeballs between these newly-launched serials in the coming months; at least till the new season of reality shows kicks in.

Indiantelevision.com did a round-up of the contenders, trying to understand the thought process behind them.

To begin with: Ye Hai Mohabbatein, Star Plus’ drama series based on Manju Kapur’s novel, Custody. The Balaji Telefilms show premiered on 3 December and airs five days a week, occupying the 11pm slot. It stars popular TV actors Divyanka Tripathi and Karan Patel as Ishita and Raman, who are connected by their love for Raman’s daughter Ruhi. With themes like divorce, infertility, remarriage and societal issues, the show deals with the bigger question of what makes a woman a mother.

Says Star Plus general manager Gaurav Banerjee: “The story is urban and contemporary. This love story begins after a marriage gets over. It explores the theme of a second chance in love. With well-etched characters and a strong urban narrative, the show deals with day-to-day issues faced by modern couples. We are positive that our metro audiences will see a connect with Ishita and Raman, and follow their story.”

Balaji and Star Plus believe viewers have accepted Ishita and Raman into their families, much like the iconic characters the team has created in the past. Indeed, the show garnered 3,291 TVTs in week 52 of TAM TV ratings. India Gate Basmati Rice is its title sponsor.

Doli Armaanon Ki and Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya: Zee TV’s two new shows that premiered on 2 December, 2013 and 6 January, 2014, respectively. Both the shows air five days a week and occupy the 10pm and 10.30pm slot, respectively.

The channel has roped in Sofy Side Walls as its title sponsor for Doli Armaanon Ki. Set in Jhansi, Doli Armaanon Ki is the story of Urmi and Samrat, played by Neha Marda and Mohit Malik, respectively. Urmi walks into a marriage with Samrat, all eager and wide-eyed, only to realise that married life isn’t always what one dreamed about.

Asked how the show is different, Spellbound Productions producer Pearl Grey replies: “It is just about conviction. I feel you can stand out from the rest if the concept is different. I feel we are saying something which no one has said earlier. Like how we did for Mann Kee Awaaz Pratigya, we spoke about issues which were not spoken on television earlier. The other thing about standing apart is getting in a character which is different. In my show, the USP is Samrat’s character. The relationship we are showing is very different. We are highlighting the nuisances.”

For Grey, having a 10.30pm slot is an advantage as there is liberty of saying and doing things that cannot be shown at early prime time. Even Zeel content head Ajay Bhalwankar is confident that the new series will crack slot leaders very soon. “The battle is not tough. The slot is very warm. And with our strong storyline and concept, this show can reach one crore plus viewership. Plus, our TG is the whole family. At the end of the day, if men don’t see, they won’t understand the cause through our concept,” he says.

Zee TV pulled out all stops in promoting the new show. Promos were played on the network’s news, kids’ and movie channels as well as on Zee Cinema and Zee Marathi. For DTH audiences in particular, live streaming and default landing channel were taken, promo roadblock on primetime and special behind the scenes content was created to promote the show. #doli was created on Twitter, which trended all India for more than 8 hours on the day of the launch. Zee even asked viewers to send them region-wise shaadi rituals under this hash tag.

The other Zee newbie, Aur Pyaar Hogaya, is the love story of Avni, a young spirited girl from a traditional family in Jaipur, played by Kaanchi Singh and a simple boy Raj, with a diametrically opposite personality and family background, reprised by Mishkat Varma. No sponsor has been roped in yet for the series.

About the 10pm slot, Director’s Kut Production’s Rajan Shahi answers: “I have never asked channels for particular slots. For me, it’s my work, whether you put me in the 2 pm or 6 pm slot, I have to work. Over the years, I am not so blinded by it, but TVTs do play an important role. I know that we are judged by TVTs, but I don’t let this affect my day-to-day life.” Like Doli Armaanon Ki, Aur Pyaar Hogaya too was heavily promoted on social media by creating individual official pages.

Next up, Tumhari Paakhi, Life OK’s new show produced by Shashi-Sumeet Mittal Productions, premiered on 11 November, and airs five days a week, occupying the 9.30 slot. Tagged a differentiated love story, it is based on legendary Bengali author Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel Navvidhan.

As to the criteria for choosing a particular slot, Life OK general manager Ajit Thakur says: “On the slot, there are a number of criteria like firstly, the viewership. Obviously, early prime-time, the viewership is more from small markets and late prime-time it is from larger markets and metros. The other thing is who are the people viewing it. As we go to later prime-time, families and more men come to it. Earlier prime-time, there are more kids. Thirdly, for the channel itself, which is the slot they want to replace. Some slots are doing well and some slots are not doing that well.”

Thakur goes on to explain that the earlier show Junoon wasn’t doing too well, which is why they were on the lookout for another show and eventually, Tumhari Paakhi, a mature love story, turned out to be the perfect replacement for late prime-time. He dismisses it being a risk choice saying: “That does not matter beyond a point. We are already at number four and getting close to the top three. For us, every slot we have to compete. It does not matter to us anymore. There are leaders as such and now we are competing in all slots. We decide basis our priority now.”

To market the new show, Life OK ran promos on all its network channels and put up umpteen hoardings across cities. On the day of the launch, print ads were released and railway announcements too were made. Besides, on Twitter, the channel constantly keeps updating #TumhariPaakhi hashtag with news, polls and promo links.

Beintehaa and Rangrasiya: Colors’ two new shows premiered on 30 December last year and will continue to air Monday to Friday at 9pm and 9.30pm, respectively.

While Beintehaa is a show with a pan-Muslim milieu which revolves round two very similar, headstrong individuals, Aaliya and Zain, who are in a volatile relationship; Rangrasiya is an edgy, explosive tale of Paro and Rudra, two individuals who start off by hating each other intensely.

Both the shows were promoted extensively across mediums, including in-theatre integrations during Dhoom 3 in HSMs, OOH in 60 cities and towns, and a media mix with over 40 channels plus radio stations covering more than 40 cities.

With the launch leading into the new year, special calendars were brought out with select publications to enable audiences bring the characters home. An all-round social media strategy was developed to ensure the duo continue to be the topic of dinner table conversations across homes.

Asked whether it didn’t bother them that rival channels have some of their most popular shows at 9 and 9.30pm, Colors’ programming head Prashant Bhatt says that planning for the 9 pm slot begins much before the channel’s biggest reality show, Bigg Boss, kicks off. “We know that as soon as the show ends, we have to come up with news shows with strong content and we work on it accordingly. This time too, when we heard the stories of the two shows – Rangrasiya and Beintehaa – we knew that we have to take them to the prime time slot because of the newness,” he says.

Says Saurabh Tewari, MD of Nautanki Films which has produced Rangrasiya: “We were happy to have got the prime time slot for our show. We are aware of the competition that exists in the slot and even otherwise, but there’s always space for something new.” Tewari believes the presentation and the manner of storytelling, not to mention the extensive shooting in Rajasthan will work in the channel’s favour.

Coming to Beintehaa, Farhan Sallaruddin of Fortune Productions, producer of the show, says the story’s concept is its USP. “The Muslim community hasn’t been explored much and in this show, we have anyway brought the love story of two very strong characters. It will be loved by youngsters and older people alike,” he says.

Last but not the least, Main Na Bhoolungi and Ekk Nayi Pehchaan, Sony Entertainment Television’s newest additions to its kitty, more so in a bid to get viewers to tune in to its soaps instead of the crime shows and thrillers it has become synonymous with. Both the shows premiered on 23 December last year at 8.00pm and 8.30pm, respectively.

Main Na Bhoolungi traces the life of Shikha, a well educated and confident girl, played by Aishwarya Sakhuja, who has an arranged marriage with the seemingly perfect Sameer, played by Vikas Manaktala. However, Shikha falls off from a cliff, cutting short the happy alliance. Is it the end of the fairytale or just a bad dream? The story is based on a 1996 Gujarati play Sharda, penned by Varsha Adalja, which elaborates on the concept of ‘women in their 40s’.

“The focus is not on the rest. The focus is on yourself. That is the only way you can stand out. There is only one way to success, not necessarily that assures success, but do your best,” says producer Yash Patnaik. ”We as producers, as makers, go to the channel with the concept. Then it is up to the channel which slot to air. They decide what will work there, what kind of target audience, the strengths they have. As makers in television, we purely go by their conviction and strategy.”

About Ekk Nayi Pehchaan, Jay Mehta Productions producer Kinnari Mehta feels content is the king that will get viewers to watch a particular show. “We haven’t seen a show till now wherein they have shown a positive bond between mother in law and daughter in law. We are trying to come out from that mould where saas and bahus just fight. And we have a beautiful cast, both of them are such faces that will stand out across all the GECs and the concept. Since our show deals with adult literacy, a lot of women want to educate themselves,” she elaborates.

Sony is confident the two new shows will be a big turnaround for them. Says Sony senior VP, head marketing Gaurav Seth: “The two new shows are a big turnaround for the channel. The 7 - 11pm slot is where there will be competition in any channel, but good content always stands out. We have got good numbers for both the shows.”

While viewers are going to be spoilt for choice with the sheer number of new shows across the Hindi GECs, only time will tell who will emerge the winners in this race...

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