Television

'We believe our prime time has more potential' : Ashvini Yardi - Colors senior VP and head of content and creative

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Colors is celebrating its first year sitting at the top of the ratings cliff. A late entrant, with 10 Hindi general entertainment channels launched before it, the Viacom18 channel climbed to the No. 1 position in 38 weeks time, enjoying the fastest ride to success with backing coming from "disruptive and differentiated" programming, strong distribution and heavy promotions.

From 81 GRPs (gross rating points) and the No 3 position in first week, Colors crossed the 100 GRP mark in its second week; 200 GRPs in the ninth; and 300 GRPs in the 32nd week.





Critics have accused the channel of pumping in huge monies behind high-cost shows. That seems to be paying off, at least for now.





Post a big bang launch with Khatron ke Khiladi, Colors programming team under the stewardship of Ashvini Yardi, former Zee TV creative head, weaved a series of daily and weekly shows that gradually built a loyal viewership base for the channel. Within nine months of launch, shows such as Balika Vadhu, Jai Shri Krishna, Uttaran and Na Aana Is Des Laado, along with non-fictions, are kicking in around 250 GRPs.

 



In an interview with Indiantelevision.com's Gaurav Laghate, Colors senior VP and head of content and creative Ashvini Yardi talks about the strategy behind the programming and the channel's plans ahead.

Excerpts:

Colors launched exactly a year back. What have been the important landmarks for you?

Well, occupying the third spot in the launch week itself, crossing the 100 GRP mark and then to finally becoming the number one channel within a span of eight months has surely been some of the milestones for us. But for me, apart from all these, it was more about meaningful programming.





We created thought provoking subject-based shows like Balika Vadhu, Uttaran and Na Ana Is Des Laado. And we believe that Colors has raised the bar for quality programming, both in fiction and non-fiction shows.

But don't you think it adds on to the audience fatigue?

Not really. On the contrary, it is good for viewers as every channel tries to come up with something different and better in quality. Overall, it gives the viewers an expanded choice.

What has been Colors' strategy behind selecting particular shows?

We knew that we were the 11th player foraying into the GEC clutter. And therefore, to break into this clutter we wanted to offer something different to viewers. However, that different element was always within the same boundary. You see, every show is different, and yet full of emotions. Look, concept or idea remains the same; what matters is the treatment.





We also encouraged new talents.

But on the creative side, how do you decide on the progress of the storyline?

Generally, while a producer thinks only about the show, the channel has a holistic approach towards it. But at Colors, we strongly believe that for any show, vision has to be one person's. And in Colors' case, it is bound to be ours. We look after every show with the perspective of the whole channel.

'Celebrities have fitted in very well for Colors. They, as brands, blended with the channel's property and also helped as promotional vehicles'

In that case, creative differences won't emerge?

Well, our creative team sits with producers to discuss and chalk out everything in detail. But we do make our vision for the show very clear.

And what about deadline pressures? Producers always accuse channels for changing storyline at moment's notice and that they don't get enough time.

For a daily soap, pressure is always there. And that is true for all channels. Even if we have a bank of episodes, there can be last moment changes. Sometimes, on realising that a particular character is getting better response, we decide to increase its length. Or for that matter, if some property is not delivering up to its potential, we may suggest for a change in the storyline or sub plots. The daily soaps are designed in such a way that you can take it to any level. That is the beauty of soaps.

Precisely, that's why some shows run for years and viewers don't enjoy "happy endings". What about finite shows?

We have Balaji Telefilms' Koi Aane Ko Hai, which is a finite show and is seasonal. So it will go off air after completing its first season and will come back again. Also, keeping a bank is possible in finite shows. But a channel has to give a staple diet of fiction, non-fiction and movie content to viewers.

Is the accusation true that Colors is putting in large monies for big ticket shows and spoiling the market?

That is not true. Our programming budget is not more than any other top channel. It is a perception play that we have high-cost shows because of the scale and quality we stress upon. On actual basis, the cost is on par with other shows.

But you roped in stars like Akshay Kumar and Shilpa Shetty for your properties. Don't they hike your budgets? And how important is the star value for you?

For Colors, these celebrities have fitted in very well. They, as brands, blended with the channel's property. Akshay is known for his khiladi image, so he was the best option for Khataron Ke Khiladi.





Shilpa, on the other hand, had won Big Brother in its original format at that time. So, who better than her to host Big Boss. Moreover, these shows with celebrities also helped as promotional vehicles for the channel.

Channels are adopting films into soaps. Your Jeevansathi had striking similarities with the movie Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.

Well, people find connect. Jeevansaathi was a love story, and Indian films have tried so many plots based on love stories that there are bound to be similarities. In the beginning, because of the cast and plot of Jeevansaathi, viewers thought it is like the movie. But it changed entirely. Moreover, an idea can come from a film. But daily soaps have much more than a three-hour plot. So there is a lot more to play with.

But some of the shows are not delivering. Don't you think you should replace them like you did with four other shows?

We believe in giving every show a fair chance. If we see any potential, we go ahead with that show. Right now we are concentrating on the shows which are giving average ratings and have the potential.





The four shows that we have replaced were not getting enough response, so we ended the story logically.

Now that you have a stable GRP base of 250 from programming and movies, what next?

Our aim is to continue delivering on viewer's expectations and to consolidate the primetime. We believe our primetime has more potential than this.
And what about launching the afternoon band?

As I said, there is a lot of scope in primetime; therefore, first we are taking care of this band. After that, we will get into the afternoon band. Moreover, our repeats during afternoons are getting us ratings; so we can wait for some more time before launching shows for this band.

We have also launched the Sunday morning band and are getting good response from it.
Any big idea behind launching the Sunday morning band?

It is in sync with our disruptive and differentiated programming. Sunday morning was a major slot in the 90's. It is still a time when families sit together and watch television, including kids. So we decided to design programmes for this untapped slot.




Our shows Vikram aur Betaal and Shri Swaminarayan are targeted at family viewing with a focus on kids.




Also, now we have launched our weekend primetime with India's Got Talent, Chhote Miyan season 2 and Mahaveer Hanuman. So we are on course with our plans.
Has the economic slowdown played a dampener on your budget and growth plans?

Well, we are ahead of our targets and, thus, have not curtailed any of our plans.
How important is it to be in the top three in the highly competitive Hindi GEC space?

It is a cycle. It is very important to be in the top league in this game. If you are there, you can attract big chunk of revenues to invest in good shows, which ultimately gives you good ratings.

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