MUMBAI: As the pandemic shows no signs of abating despite the lockdown, viewers’ affinity towards mythological shows on GECs is growing. With no fresh content to entertain their audiences, the overall consumption of GECs fell as compared to the pre-Covid2019 era but did not tumble thanks to the rejig in programming strategy.
Public broadcaster Doordarshan evoked this nostalgia of old mythological shows by airing Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan and BR Chopra’s Mahabharata and later Shri Krishna. The re-run of famous mythological shows took the channel to the top of the television ratings. Following the trend, private GECs also joined the bandwagon.
Viacom18’s Colors acquired the rights to Chopra's Mahabharat which started airing on 4 May. On the other hand, Star Plus also decided to re-run Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan around the same time. Along with pay channels, even free-to-air (FTA) channels also started airing Ramayan from 7 May. All these channels are running those shows on primetime.
However, it has to be seen how these shows will stay on top once the audience again gets a taste of their favourite programmes post the lockdown. According to Viacom18 Hindi mass entertainment chief content officer Manisha Sharma, mythological shows have always been a hit amongst the audience and have laid the foundation of the television ecosystem continuing to hold prominence in daily lives. She adds that the shows provide a wide scope in terms of the narrative, characters and entertaining plots that strike a chord with the audience. Sharma affirms that mythological content will be on the rise in the future as well given the versatility of the genre.
“We have always understood that mythological content appeals to viewers very strongly and have had mythological shows air even in the pre-lockdown phase. Viewers connect with these shows at a personal level. Considering the traction we have seen for such content beyond the lockdown period, we are certain that viewers will continue to watch these shows with the same enthusiasm even after the lockdown is lifted,” Enterr10 Television Network marketing head Arpit Machhar says. When the lockdown began, Dangal also started re-runs of other mythological shows like Chandragupt Maurya, Mahima Shanidev Ki, Dwarkadheesh, Devi Adi Parashakti.
“We (Dangal) continue to be among the top five channels across genres at an all-India level even during this lockdown. Our content is diverse and highly appealing to both rural and urban viewers and our advertisers understand our strength and reach. Ramayan and our other shows have been receiving very good traction. As per latest BARC data for week 17, three out of the top five programmes are from Dangal. We continue to see interest from advertisers even for these re-runs considering the mass appeal these shows have,” he adds.
About ad inventory of these re-runs, Viacom18’s Sharma said that mythological shows such as Jai Shri Krishna and Mahabharat have helped to bolster television audiences and attract a lot of advertisers. She notes that time spent on such shows has consistently been increasing and brands that are relevant in today’s context are and should use it as an opportunity to create awareness and salience. Products with huge demand and ample supply like FMCG and retailers are the revenue generators, contributing largely to the ad inventory.
“Re-run of mytho shows have become preferred content for GECs and viewership contribution has increased substantially in the past few weeks. This trend has benefited brands which are active on GECs to attain campaign deliveries and drive efficiencies,” says Carat executive vice president Mayank Bhatnagar. However, he mentions that a lot of advertisers have paused campaigns making it difficult for GECs to ask for higher rates. According to him, planners would evaluate or renegotiate deals and will look for safer and stable options to minimise the risk.
According to BARC India viewership data for week 15, mythological shows were watched by 353 million viewers for 109 billion minutes, making up nearly 43 per cent of overall Hindi GEC viewership. In the pre-Covid2019 period, total viewership share of mythological content on Hindi GECs was just 14 per cent. The trendsetter DD National continued to top the chart of Hindi GECs from week 14 to week 17.
Will they invest in more mythological shows? Sharma says that as broadcasters, they do see merit in commissioning new mythological shows. Asked about further investment for mythological shows, Machhar said that they will continue to keep an eye out for content that is innovative and that has mass appeal not only for rural audience but also for urban viewers
What might have led to people to choose mythological shows right now? “In times, when we are seeking relief and hope, the epics are proving to be a perfect reminder of the golden times and guiding light for how we wish to lead life from here on. The combination of purpose, nostalgia and the great narrative keeps bringing people back to watch these shows and take away something meaningful from it every time. The shows are also backed by a strong storyline and impressive character outlines that make for a great entertainment proposition,” Sharma says.
Macchar reflects the same and comments, “Indian mythology connects with viewers very strongly and given a choice, viewers continue to consume re-runs of epics like Ramayan. Viewers are currently restricted to their homes and in need of wholesome entertainment. Moreover, shows like Ramayan and Chandragupt Maurya depict the story line and the events that happened very closely and hence can be watched over and over again as it lets audience re-live those moments.”
Bhatnagar says channels will be happy to see the high viewership contribution from these re-runs. In the absence of any fresh content, these re-runs have worked really well for the GECs. He adds that if we look at past trends, mythological shows have appealed to larger audiences and ensure stickiness, and therefore, channels bank on these shows. Although for the past few years reality and fiction shows have led the charts, with the absence of fresh content, audiences are watching whatever is available on their favourite GECs and these mythos shows are preferred content for them.