Hindi Television Trends of 2010
Yash Raj and Sony tried, and failed, to bring in the future of Hindi television
For me, this was one of the most significant media events of the year. Over the last 5 years I have listened to thousands of people complain about Hindi television, and ask why shows similar to the better western content can’t be made in India. Finally someone tried to do just this, and, despite a huge marketing campaign, it didn’t work.
Maybe the marketing didn’t connect with viewers? Maybe the programming (keeping the timeslots to late nights or weekends) failed, and the shows should have gone head to head with the GEC primetime offerings? Maybe anyone who is interested in high production values and good scripts is already watching English channels. Maybe these shows were just way ahead of their time, and this is exactly what people will be watching 5 years from now?
For now at least, we are stuck with family serials and dancing reality TV
Music videos to promote TV shows
StarPlus and Colours created music videos to promote their shows Masterchef, and Bigg Boss. While such videos can be played on TV, they are most useful as a viral internet marketing tool. Nice to see TV channels looking at new ways to promote their content.
Reality shows kept branching out
Bindass had Emotional Atyachar
Sadly, the endless dance and singing shows still seem to rule, with compulsory celebrity hosts, no matter how pointless their presence.
StarPlus took back the number one GEC slot from Colors.
The competitive lead from Colors’ ‘disruptive programming’ approach faded away as the other channels raced to dump their K serials and launch stories set in regional districts or with unusual protagonists.
Bad luck for Colors, but great news for India. Hindi television is in a far better place today than it was two years ago. The old formula for hit TV is gone, and story and character are more important than ever.
Multi-lingual viewers are starting to transition from the Hindi GECs to regional content
Channels in regional languages are blossoming, especially Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi, and the four southern languages. The quality of content is improving, which is drawing more advertising money. Ernst and Young estimates that ad spends on regional channels will grow by 25% this year, compared to 16% on Hindi channels.
Broadcasters are taking the view that if they are going to bleed viewers and revenue from their flagship channel, they might as well bleed into other channels that they own. Almost all the big Hindi TV players have either already started launching regional channels or have announced that they will be doing so in the near future.
More regional channels mean more competition to develop great content. This will accelerate the slippage of viewers and ad revenue further.
One potential upside of this that I can see is that as more melodramatic, emotional content shifts to regional channels, the Hindi GECs will start exploring newer formats and narratives.
As a side note – another reason that channels like regional offerings is that the content is cheap. Hindi drama costs 7-10 lakh per episode (on average) compared to 2 Lakh an episode more regional dramas. Reality shows are also cheaper as the local stars charge far less to host the content.
Prime time expanded
From channel to channel, primetime can now cover anything between 6:30pm and 11:30pm.
What does this mean? More people are watching TV, over a wider spread of time. Primetime is all original programming, not repeats, so more primetime means a wider range of content for viewers to choose from.
First web based show – Bol Niti Bol from Balaji
Balaji showed just how flexible its business model is by backflipping from a range of virtually identical K serials, to a variety of significantly different shows. On top of that they have released a couple of great films (including the awesome LSD), started an online community to search for talent, and have launched a film and acting school.
To top it off, in July they released India’s first web based serial. Bol Niti Bol, the life journal of an 18 year old girl making her way through life.
Bol Niti Bol was actually designed as a multi-site web experience. Videos are hosted on YouTube and news/lifestyle sites, plus a Facebook page and a twitter feed. Balaji claims that the 17 episodes received more than 650,000 views in the first month, and they had 10,000 followers across the social media sites.
Why is this important? When families earn more money in developed countries, they buy more TVs. In the US, more than 50% of households have 3 or more televisions. Everyone in the household gets to watch whatever they want, so there is space for a huge variety of channels and content.
In contrast, most Indian families don’t own a TV. Often TVs are shared between families, or within a large extended family. As Indian families become richer, they rarely buy more TVs. This is why the target audience for popular TV channels is SEC BCD women, even though we keep hearing about India’s enormous ‘youth’ population.
Indian families buy computers (for their children’s education), and fancy mobile phones. As the older family members usually control the TV set, there is a huge opportunity to deliver targeted content to the younger family members over the internet.
With 3G just around the corner, and smart phones with big colour screens selling for under Rs.5000, we will shortly see a deluge of short-form web-based content aimed at the 15-25yr old market.
Hindi Film Trends of 2010
For Serious Films, Story Ruled.
Big budget serious films that lacked story, or lacked Indian context struggled at the boxoffice, often flopping. Kites, Ravaan, Veer, Teen Patti, Aisha and Guzaarish for example. Despite beautiful production values, each of these were either poorly written or lacked a connection with Indian life and values.
Big budget serious films with good stories or strong Indian context did well (as long as they were properly marketed). Rajneeti, My Name is Khan, Once Upon A Time In Mumbai.
Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se was possibly the worst marketed film of the year. Someone stuck up a few posters, and the next day it was in cinemas. Although, since Lamhaa and Red Alert also struggled at the box office, despite strong marketing, maybe people just don’t like films about conflict zones this year?
Big-budget, madcap, plotless comedies continued to make as much money as ever. There were some unexplainable flops, but overall this category did well despite atrocious reviews with films such as Golmaal 3, Housefull, and Tees Maar Khan.
Mirroring the trend in TV, stories set in smaller towns were generally successful. Dabaang, Tees Maar Khan, Peepli [Live], Udaan, Aakrosh, Ishqiya, Phas Gaye Re Obama, even featuring small-town attitudes or innocence (Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge, Tere Bin Laden)helped.
Other than in the big-budget comedies, there seemed to be far fewer international locations than in previous years. Possibly this is a hangover from the cash crunch that saw lots of producers slashing their film budgets.
The young, ‘non hero’, multiplex-driven genre continued to grow, generally through the efforts of Ranbir, Imran and Farhaan. I Hate Luv Storys, Karthik Calling Karthik, Anaaja Anjaani, Break Ke Baad.
Lots of 3D films
Indian multiplexes (at least in major cities) have rushed to upgrade their projection technology. Many Hollywood films, which in the US are shown in both 2 and 3D, in India were shown only in 3D
Lots of ‘New’
Lots of debuts. By some estimates there were over 150 new entrants to the industry in either significant acting roles or as writers or directors.
There were some great attempts at doing something different content-wise:
- First film with gay protagonists – Dunno Y… Na Jaane Kyon
- First TV show adaptation – Khichdi – The Movie
- And my favourite risk-taking film of 2010 – Love, Sex and Dhoka