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Hindi GECs flirted with formats, sensed OTT challenge

The year did not see much apart from several experimentations with programmes.

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MUMBAI: When it came to content, OTT platforms captured the zeitgeist of 2018. Premium digital video content was relentlessly rolled out by the likes of Amazon Prime, Netflix, ALT Balaji, Hotstar, Voot and Zee5, keeping the audiences hooked at all times. Naturally, the band of programmers at some of India’s biggest broadcast networks felt the heat as a new wave of content competition hit India. Heads of Hindi GECs pulled out all stops in order to stay ahead of the game and keep their viewers happy. Thankfully for them, the cord-cutting trend, prevalent in several countries, didn’t turn to India. However, the sheer scale and quality of OTT content audiences were exposed to this year should be a cause for worry entertainment channels.

‘TV isn’t dying, in fact, both TV and OTT is growing simultaneously,’ was a line often heard this year. That’s perhaps the reason broadcasters remained confident that daily soaps, fiction and non-fiction shows on TV would continue to command viewership numbers.

The advent OTT players increased the overall demand for content. While Indian broadcasters put out over 100,000 hours of content annually across formats and languages, newer entrants continued to pump in more cash per episode (though for much smaller quantities of content) and tried to snap up the best available talent. 

The overall cost of content rose by almost two to three per cent of the broadcasters’ top line. With OTT companies refusing to take their foot off the pedal, broadcasters have no choice but to pay up. However, if their bid for quality programming fails to generate higher viewership which can be monetized better, broadcasters may not pursue quality, and stick to current cost metrics.

As far as content consumption was concerned, regional content too made its mark this year. While Hindi language consumption remains the country’s preferred choice, growth was fastidiously led by regional content. Backing this up with some facts, it was reported that the daily tune-ins on TV by the HSM led to 68.4 per cent, whereas in the South market it led to 78.3 per cent. Simultaneously, the advertisement expenditure in FY18, Hindi GECs declined by nine per cent as compared to an increase of 5.4 per cent in on regional channels. 

It was also a year of full surprises for the Hindi GECs, especially on the leadership front. Top-notch industry executives decided to call it quits including veteran Colors CEO Raj Nayak who dropped the bombshell of his Viacom18 exit after a distinguished seven-year stint with the media and entertainment conglomerate. Another prominent personality Discovery India and South Asia head Karan Bajaj also called it a day. Industry insiders believe the bespectacled Bajaj timed his exit to perfection, stepping aside when it mattered most. Both of them haven’t hinted at what gigs they are likely to take up next. Another heavyweight - Deepak Rajadhyaksha - who was heading Zee TV, turned to Viacom18 with his mantle being handed over to the broadcaster’s English cluster head Aparna Bhosle.

The GECs also flirted with formats and played around with show timings in an attempt to infuse life into programming. Here's a quick recap of how some of India's most-loved Hindi GECs tried to stay ahead in a cluttered segment.

Colors

Having a stronghold in the mythological and fantasy drama genre, it revived Naagin for season three giving it an 8 pm slot on the weekend. Another supernatural drama Tantra by Swastik Productions was aired on weekdays at 11 pm. Rashmi Sharma Telefilms’ Vish Ya Amrit: Sitaara, a supernatural thriller, was given the weekday 10.30 pm slot.

Two leading ladies of not just Viacom18, but the entire industry, added more feathers to their caps. Manisha Sharma, who was in charge of Colors, was elevated as the chief content officer - Hindi mass entertainment. She heads both Colors and Rishtey. Kids’ cluster head Nina Jaipuria’s portfolio further expanded to include both kids TV network and Hindi.

The channel reshuffled its programming line-up post the launch of historical saga Dastaan-E-Mohabbat Salim Anarkali, Monday-Saturday at 8.30 pm, by replacing the drama series Udaan which was shifted to 7 pm slot. Internet Wala Love, which aired at 7 pm was moved to 6.30 pm time band while Savitri Devi College and Hospital, which aired at the 6.30 pm slot was called off.

After a two year hiatus, Colors came back with the launch of season 8 of reality show India’s Got Talent, to be shown on weekends at 10 pm. The show was planned to replace horror anthology television series, Kaun Hai? That was produced by Contiloe Pictures and was scheduled to air every Friday to Saturday at 10.30 pm. Also, another home-grown reality show Entertainment Ki Raat season 2 was given the weekend 9 pm slot, promoted from its debut season slot of 10.30 pm. The show was replaced with the reality show Rising Star produced by Optimystix Entertainment. Bigg Boss 12 was also launched but with a new time-slot at 9 pm.

Sony

Hindi GEC Sony Sab started a new weekend slot titled ‘Sab Ka Weekend Plan’ with two new shows India Ke Mast Kalandar – Atrangi Hain Ye!and Namune. The channel aired the former show every Saturday and Sunday at 8 pm whereas the latter was at 9 pm. The Kapil Sharma Show is all set to make a comeback after a hiatus of more than a year. The channel had stopped airing fresh episodes of the show from September 2017.

Taking Colors’ Bigg Boss 12 head-on was Sony’s tentpole show Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) season 10 at 9 pm. Following that, the channel launched two fictional drama Patiala Babes and Ladies Special post-KBC. The channel pulled the plug on Yeh Pyaar Nahi Toh Kya Hai, which was aired at 9.30 pm, following poor ratings.

The network also announced that Sony Pictures Network India’s (SPNI) newly launched content production arm Studio NXT will focus on creating premium, high investment content that can also travel outside India. Headed by Sony Entertainment Television (SET) EVP and business head Danish Khan, the content studio began its journey with Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) season 10 which was co-produced with Big Synergy.

The channel is experimenting with new shows and formats in the time slot starting 8.30 pm. The channel aired comedy-drama Main Maike Chali Jaungi, replacing Dus Ka Dum and Zindagi Ke Crossroads. Dus Ka Dum aired on Monday and Tuesday while Zindagi Ke Crossroads aired from Wednesday to Friday.

Zee

Zee TV’s primetime offering included Manmohini, produced by LSD Films, every Monday to Friday at 7.30 pm. &TV launched a live singing reality show for kids Love Me India and fantasy show Vikram Betaal ki Rahasya Gaatha. Zee TV launched a new fiction show named Tujse hai Raabta on 3 September, weekdays at 8.30 pm, produced by Full House Media.

ZEEL elevated Aparna Bhosle as the business head of its flagship Hindi GEC Zee TV. Bhosle headed the premium and FTA GEC cluster. The move comes in the wake of Deepak Rajadhyaksha’s exit from the company. He was the deputy business head at Zee TV. Rajadhyaksha joined Viacom18 as business head of Colors Marathi and Colors Gujarati.

Zee also took three of its shows abroad for a remake, in collaboration with African countries - Punar Vivah, Dance India Dance and Pavitra Rishta.

Ending the year 2018 on a high note, &TV opened doors of endless opportunities for makers to experiment with content. Supernatural ruled the roost this year for the channel, progressive concepts and live reality remained at the top of the list. From launching its first live reality show for kids to introducing supernatural in a new style, &TV presented its khaas andaaz with not one but many pieces of content that were rolled out. The channel launched shows like ‘The Unconventional Saas (Perfect Pati)’, ‘Love with supernatural twist (Laal Ishq)’,’ Reliving childhood stories (Vikram Betaal Ki Rahasya Gatha)’, ‘ The mysterious Daayan (Daayan)’, Kids Live singing with ‘Love Me India’ and ‘High Fever… Dance Ka Naya Tevar’.

Star

Star India signed a multi-season, multi-year deal with Talpa Media for The Voice franchise, comprising The Voice and The Voice Kids. The new series will be produced by Banijay Asia, a Banijay Group company.

Star Bharat’s socio-thriller Kaal Bhairav Rahasya returned for a second season featuring new mystery and folklore. Star Bharat launched a mythological show Radha Krishn airing Monday to Friday at 9 pm, replacing political drama Saam Daam Dand Bhed. The show was produced by Swastik Productions who have had several successes in the genre including Shani, Mahakali, and Porus. It also announced the launch of a new finite fiction show that narrated the story of firebrand freedom fighter Chandrashekar Azad in about 110 episodes, produced by Anirudh Pathak.

The main GEC Star Plus launched a new show Karn Sangini at 7 pm. The show replaced channel’s reality show Sabse Smart Kaun. With Karn Sangini, the channel is dealing with the new genre of mytho-romance. Produced by Shashi and Sumeet Mittal, the show narrated the never-seen-before tale of a royal princess Uruvi who chose her love and stood by it against all odds.

Discovery Jeet

Despite heavy promotions in its launch stage, Discovery Jeet didn’t quite manage to grasp the pulse of the audience.

Jeet entered the Hindi GEC sweepstakes on 12 February with five hours of daily programmes, out of which three hours were original programming, with content available in Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu. The channel launched with a distribution blitzkrieg to more than 100 million households and signed up Netflix as the exclusive global OTT partner.

Despite the network’s best effort, the channel failed to rate. Initially thought of a challenger to the existing GEC order, Jeet fizzled out without much of a fight.

According to Broadcast Audience Research Council data week 9, the channel garnered 6096 impressions (000s) in the 7 pm to 11 pm time slot, while it secured 15908 impressions (000s) for the whole day’s viewership. Currently, the channel airs syndicates content dubbed in Hindi.

Overall, almost all channels heavily swapped shows for one another in order to keep audiences steady and growing. Unlike earlier years, when channels relied on primetime shows for years, times are changing and audiences are picky and broadcasters realise that.

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