For the Hindi general entertainment genre, 2014 has proved to be a momentous year. Four channels were launched in the space, three of them being in the pay TV mode. The activity was much slow in 2013, which saw the lone launch of Zee Anmol as a free-to-air (FTA) channel.
Desperate large investments, none of the pay channels got a good start. The game, perhaps, could change for the better in 2015. A quick recap reveals that 2013 was a year of change and challenge—digitisation, addition of LC1 towns, change in viewership currency (from TVR to TVT) and the 12-minute ad cap, which major broadcasters started following in October.
Cut to 2014, the genre saw a more settled top order. Star Plus changed the entire scheduling of programming by shifting all its fiction shows to Monday–Saturday. While the quantum of investment in programming increased in 2014, the Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs) shied away from using movie premieres to increase viewership.The top order
Like 2013, and even a year before that, Star Plus continued to be the leader of the genre. However, the shift was at No. 2. While for most of 2013 Colors was at the second spot, the tide was turned and Zee TV remained ahead of Colors for most of 2014.
In fact, even Life OK raced ahead of Colors to occupy the second spot in between, though it was not for long.
Finally, with the double dose of reality, ‘Bigg Boss’ and ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’, Colors managed to regain the second spot by the end of October.
And while SAB and Life Ok continued their fight for the fourth place, Sony Entertainment Television (SET) somehow saw all its cards getting trumped.
Higher investments in fiction
While broadcasters tightened their purses on movies, they started investing more in original content (including fiction). Star Plus’ ‘Mahabharat’ (which was launched last year) and ‘Everest’, and SET’s ‘Yudh’ are pretty good examples of higher investments happening in the fiction space.Innovative concepts
Once again, 2014 can be termed as a year of innovation not just in terms of scheduling, but also in storyline and treatment.
For example, there were shows on Hindi GECs which were innovative and differentiated compared to the regular soaps. Whether it is the story involving a child and an elephant (‘Bandhan’ on Zee TV) or a teen drama with a message (‘Nisha Aur uske Cousins’ on Star Plus), or a daughter’s wish to conquer Mt Everest (‘Everest’ on Star Plus) or a thriller with Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan (‘Yudh’ on SET), the programmers tried something different.
However, while the channels upped the ante on investments in fiction, it remained a primetime game only with a missing afternoon block. No channel tried to have original programming in the afternoon, mainly citing economic reasons.
The new crop
2014 was the year of Hindi GEC launches. While Viacom18 started the trend with the formal launch of its FTA channel Rishtey in January, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd (ZEEL) followed with Zindagi in June, a channel which mainly airs fiction content acquired from Pakistan.
Multi Screen Media (MSM) launched its third GEC, the women-centric Sony Pal, on 1 September.
Promoted by heavyweights including Anand Mahindra and Mukesh Ambani, Epic entered the broadcasting space with a segmented approach on 19 December.
While Rishtey is finding its space in the FTA market, unfortunately, other launches have failed to smell quick success in a highly competitive genre.
At the very end of the year, Zindagi and Sony Pal are locking horns for the seventh position. Epic, the last launch of the year, remains at the bottom of the pyramid.
Star Plus continues to be market leader
The leader of the genre continued to enjoy an enviable position far ahead of its peers. For a large part of the year, the channel had six or seven of the top 10 shows in the GEC category.
In February 2014, the channel had extended its entire line-up of weekday fiction shows—all 11 of them—to Saturday. The channel saw over 15 per cent growth in average viewership after the move.
“It’s been a year in which the creative team at Star Plus and the creative people who we have worked with have just outdone themselves. It’s been a very good year,” Star Plus GM Gaurav Banerjee said.
The channel also kept its strong focus on storytelling. “Our storytelling reflects a certain kind of brand. We believe that we have built a great brand which has a massive connect with our viewers, and this brand idea is about our core belief that women are catalysts for change in the society and more power to them really pushes families towards progress,” Banerjee had told TelevisionPost.com in an earlier interaction.
While it also tasted success with a more mature love story, ‘Yeh Hai Mohabbatain’, the biggest challenge in front of the channel is the weekend, where it has only Sunday to offer variety, and which so far has not duplicated the success of its other fiction shows.
“We genuinely believe that there is a great brand that we have built, which connects in a massive manner with our viewers and this brand idea is about core beliefs that women are catalysts for change in our society and more power to them really pushes families towards progress. So these last 12 months, this is what has really magnified and presented itself across shows and across things that we have done,” Banerjee added.
Zee TV: Consistent & steady growth
From a number three position in the last quarter of 2013, Zee TV grew on the back of its fiction properties and consistently remained at the second spot till Colors dislodged it to number three with the help of ‘Bigg Boss’.
For Zee TV, the mainstay has been fiction. In the weekday primetime, the channel has remained No. 2 for a long time. Also, out of the 31 fiction shows launched by the GECs in 2014, the top four were from the channel.
Zee TV business head Pradeep Hejmadi said, “We have been consistent in terms of a consumer-centric approach. Zee TV has been very consistent in terms of perspective.”
For the channel, ‘Jodha Akbar’ has been a consistent slot leader and new shows like ‘Jamai Raja’, which has had the best opening in the last two years of any fiction shows, and ‘Kumkum Bhagya’ have also worked very well.
Towards the fag end of the year, Zee TV also changed its core proposition from ‘Ummeed Se Saje Zindagi’ to ‘Har Lamha Nayi Ummeed’ with a new tagline and colour for the logo. It has also opted for four different colour themes.
The strong blue colour scheme for weekday fiction shows evokes the faith and trust of the viewers, yellow for weekend fiction signifies warmth and optimism, and orange for weekend non-fiction stands for cheer, confidence and celebration. The red packaging for movies and events represents excitement and youthful energy.
The channel has experimented with the weekend slot, which currently comprises ‘Neel Chhatri Walle’, and ‘Maharakshak Aaryan’.
Colors: Strong on non-fiction, ‘Udaan’ a hit
Since its launch, Colors attained popularity for its big-budget non-fiction and issue-based fiction shows. So while shows like ‘Khataron Ke Khiladi’, ‘Bigg Boss’, ‘Comedy Nights…’ kept it higher up among the top three (barring a few weeks when it slipped to No. 4), many of its long-running fiction properties didn’t perform that well and appeared to be losing steam.
That’s when the channel got another issue-based show ‘Udaan’, which became an instant hit.
Now with two to three fiction shows seeing a better uptake (‘Sasural Simar Ka’ and ‘Udaan’), the channel has solidified its position.Life OK: Invests to enter the top 3
In 2014, Star India’s second GEC brand Life OK tried to enter the top league. One of the best GEC launches in the last seven years, the channel, for the first time, crossed the psychological barrier to enter the top 3. And to sustain there, the channel decided to invest heavily in content.
However, many of its new shows failed to gather enough audiences and the channel could not remain in the top three for long.
Incidentally, the head of the channel Ajit Thakur also decided to put in his papers to pursue his interest in film-making.SAB: Dominating the comedy genre
SAB specialises in producing content in the mellow comedy genre on a daily basis. It has a very clear-cut brand philosophy and it keeps the shows clean while providing light, wholesome entertainment sprinkled with family and social values.
“This has been the DNA of SAB which has built the channel into a strong brand today. Apart from seeing the consistency of ratings in the last one year, if we were to compare it to other channels, there is far more flip-flopping of ratings on other channels than on SAB and that’s got to do with the strength of a brand,” MSM senior EVP and business head for SAB Anooj Kapoor said.
While the channel has remained within the fourth to sixth spot during the year, it has never grown overambitious and splurged money on increasing programming hours, nor did it premiere a movie to add incremental viewership. SAB works on a low-cost model, which is extremely profitable.
Kapoor notes that SAB is one of the steadiest channels in terms of viewership. However, its problem area has not changed; it has over-dependency on one show ‘Tarak Mehta…’
Sony: Struggling to find the right formula
After having dropped to the sixth position in the Hindi GEC hierarchy, SET is doing all it can to retain its lost glory, from naming former Star Plus GM Nachiket Pantvaidya as business head to hiring Ajay Bhalwankar as chief creative director to getting Bachchan to act in a big-budget fiction show to KBC. However, none of the strategies have helped the channel to go up the charts.
In fact, the channel also completely refreshedits weekday line-up, except for ‘Maharana Pratap’.
In future, SET will bank on new versions of its old successful properties like ‘Aahat’ and ‘Bhavaar’ to get its lost audiences.
The way forward
If 2014 was a challenging year for a few players, including the three new launches, next year ZEEL is gearing up to launch &TV by the end of February or early March.
With 10 pay, three FTA and one Doordarshan channel, the Hindi GEC space is going to see increased competition in the year ahead.
All eyes will also be on the launch of alternative viewership ratings system, BARC, which will have a much bigger sample size.