What does young India want from TV shows?

MUMBAI: Reality shows with dollops of voyeurism or reality shows showcasing talent; hard-hitting real life stories or risqué fiction; fantasy or crime; comedy or cutting edge adventure… what is it that the youth of today wants from television in terms of entertainment?

While a few shows successfully manage to pervade all society’s echelons, a few fail to take flight. Moreover, now with the digital entertainment landscape augmenting every day offering fresh new content on the go, broadcasters have their task cut out for them to engage the young and restless minds with relevant programming.

A question that often echoes in the conference rooms of broadcasters and production houses during brain-storming sessions is: What does the youth of today want from television in terms of entertainment?

Roadies fame and Monozygotic co-founder Rajiv Ram rightly points out, “Today’s youth is always seeking content by consuming it across different platforms, which are available to them. The youth wants to get surprised with edgy content diverting from the mainstream content that is provided to them.”

Not the ones to follow herd mentality whether it is about career choices or personal life decisions, the youth today wants to bring a change in society and this also reflects in the kind of content that TV shows today are are furbishing them with.

The youth fare on television today offers a diverse range of life changing shows like Big F, Emotional Atyachaar, Love by Chance, Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya and Gumrah spreading awareness amongst the youth through hard hitting stories. At the same time, shows like Sadda Haq and Yeh Hai Aashique aims at breaking society’s prejudices and stereotypes. On the other hand are reality shows like Roadies, Splitsvilla, Bindass Naach or India’s Top Model, which provides a platform for youngsters to showcase their talent and skills. Bad Company, a talk show, lures the young audience with its concept of revealing the deepest, darkest secrets of TV actors.

It’s no secret that viewers are the biggest decision makers when it comes to the success of a show. What is perhaps lacking in the youth entertainment landscape today is experimental content, which dares to take some risks. While last year one did see some shows like Warrior High, Roadies X2, Big F, India’s Next Top Model and Love School breaking the shackles with new concepts on MTV, the fact is that there’s a need for more such shows targeting the youth. And while MTV was experimenting with its programming, Channel V and Bindass were not far behind with the launch of shows like Swim Team, Bindass Naach, Tu Con Mein Con, Zindagi Wins and Kota Toppers.

“A show like Swim Team would not work in India because of the content. It is indeed new, but the youth cannot relate to the concept. On the other hand, a one of its kind dance reality show Bindass Naach will attract viewers’ attention with its concept portraying a trio living for their dreams,” adds a media expert.

With the buzz created by Big F and Love School, both shows are giving strong competition to existing shows in the category. “The add-on factor to these two shows is that they have roped in familiar industry names as the host to gain some traction,” points out a channel executive.

The entertainment pyramid is well layered with each level catering to a diverse set of audience. While at the base of the pyramid is the audience consuming content from the internet services, the level above constitutes of people consuming information from the various over-the-top platforms (OTT), which offers content catering to the youth. At the third level is the consumption of international shows and at the tip of the pyramid is a pure experience i.e. live shows. At every level of the pyramid, the youth expects different content.

Supporting this, erstwhile Viacom 18 EVP and MTV & MTV Indies business head Aditya Swamy, who is now with Flipkart as senior director - marketing says, “The pipe is getting bigger and better every passing day with one end through which the information is being poured to the audience and the other end through which the youth is consuming the content. The content ecosystem is vibrant constituting diverse information for a group of people, who are totally different from one another and have a divergent content preference, which cannot be clubbed together as one.”

On the other hand, with the growing access to internet, the young generation has the option to consume anything and everything from the web sans barriers. “There is information all around us but it’s on the youth to take the call. They have to use, assimilate and make sense of the information. The only problem that I believe in India is navigation. And the need to have more relatable and real characters that the youth can connect with,” adds Bawa Broadcasting creative director Cyrus Oshidar.

Added Sunshine Productions producer Sudhir Sharma, “Channels need to understand the need of the youth and what will grab their attention. They won’t consume information that doesn’t interest them. A show done out of a random research won’t work. The youth plays the role of a dual personality these days and you have to link your content with their lives to penetrate the show,”

Sharma strongly believes that skin show or bold scenes won’t get views, instead more relatable content will get good following.

“With changing trends, the youth will demand different types of content. Sadda Haq is successful today because of its theme, which goes against the rules laid down by the society. The show successfully bridges the gap between the reel and real characters. The youth will heavily consume such content,” asserts Beyond Dreams founder Yash Patnaik.

“Roadies X2, with its new concept and jury was well received by viewers. It did well not only because of the recall element attached to it but also the concept, which kept the audience on their toes to know what’s in store for them,” observes an industry expert.

The youngsters have been hooked to some popular international shows through the internet services available to them. Shows like F.R.I.E.N.D.S, How I Met Your Mother, Sherlock etc, are widely watched in India. However Patnaik is of the opinion that though shows from the West have enjoyed success in India, they still cater to a limited group of people. “Original content will still be consumed on a larger scale, which cannot be matched,” he says.

India’s Next Top Model, which is an adaption of America’s Next Top Model, proved to be successful with the buzz that it created. “I don’t think that there is a need to acquire content when we have enough talent available in India to create original shows,” adds Patnaik.

The year has seen shows like Warrior High or Zindagi Wins going off air in just a few months. While the former was an interesting campus tale with dozens of love moments between the couples, it could not help grab enough eyeballs. On the other hand, the latter being a medical drama moulded on the lines of Dill Mill Gayye, started off as a romance between two friends, but lost its spark halfway. In the absence of a convincing storyline, the show saw an influx of new characters but failed to strike a chord with the audiences and had to make an early exit.

“Production houses need to constantly re-invent content with the changing dynamics in the society. They can’t feed one type of a content for years,” says Patnaik.

The youth today is consuming information simultaneously from different platforms and wants shows, which can be consumed easily in one go. And now more so with the launch of Netflix in India, which uploads the entire season of shows at one go on their subscription driven platform, people have yet another legit platform to go to! Swamy rights points out that as the audience will evolve, so will the content model and hence platforms for better consumption of information will evolve. “The entire media - digital or TV - is growing at a steady pace,” he says.

Also emphasising on the concept of branded entertainment, Sharma points out that if shows stick to brands, they ought to work in India. “The business of shows is dependent on ratings as well as on the funding from advertisers,” he says.

“Advertisers need to understand the content that the services are providing to the viewers. They cannot provide diluted system fed information to the youth. In today’s scenario, audience segmentation is an issue and needs to be solved so as to retain the youth audience. The youth requires risky, humoristic, never seen before content with elements of surprise,” adds Ram.

“With the change in consumer trends, channels along with the production houses have to understand the content that they are providing to the youth,” adds Swamy.

Ram says, “Even advertisers have to understand the content on such channels in a better way and develop the bridge between real and reel life characters. Channels need to work on their programming strategies to keep the audience intrigued. Only then will the entire industry grow as a whole,” says Ram.

The need of the hour for youth entertainment channels is no doubt to dish out some edgy relatable content, which will in turn keep them glued to traditional TV viewing even in the rapidly expanding digital world.

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