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By TT Bureau
  • Published 27.07.10
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If it was Colors resting comfortably at the top for the last two years, it is now STAR Plus’s turn to reclaim the position that it enjoyed before the Colors phenomenon struck Indian television sets.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned broadcast giant has been consistently scoring higher GRPs (group rating points) than Colors over the last two months, managing to (just) stay ahead in the game every week. “Our new shows are doing well and our old shows are registering a resurgence. We are back with a bang,” says Anupam Vasudev, executive vice president, marketing, STAR India.

But unlike about a year ago when it was almost impossible to nudge Colors from the top, the general entertainment channels (GECs) are in shorter phases of dominance today with almost every week throwing up a new gainer in the GEC slot.

“Over the last year, there has been a sharp dip in channel loyalty but a substantial increase in show loyalty. Earlier, a viewer would spend the entire evening with one channel, but today he has learnt to design his schedule across various channels, deciding to spend half hour with one, the next hour with another and the next two hours with a third channel,” says Nikhil Madhok, marketing and communication head, Imagine, which has also gained substantial viewership in the past one year.

“While the channel shares of STAR Plus have been on the rise of late, the top three GEC channels (namely, STAR Plus, Colors and Zee TV in that order) are still neck-to-neck,” says industry expert Naveen Shukla. So while STAR Plus is concentrating on new show launches and yanking off old shows as soon as they register a TRP dip, Colors is strengthening its afternoon time-band.

While neither STAR Plus nor Colors is willing to give an inch, constantly thinking of new ways to stay ahead in the race, it is the Zee TV comeback that is most noteworthy. According to industry estimates, while STAR Plus leads by a healthy margin in the non-prime weekday day part (2pm to 7pm) it is Zee TV that scores in the primetime weekday day part (7pm to midnight). Both TRP topper Pavitra Rishta and Dance India Dance — the only reality show in the top 10 — are Zee TV properties.

The constant TRP seesaw also means that weekend programming has no clear leader. “As a result, all GEC channels are working on the films they acquire for weekend telecasts, which often turn out to be the deciding factor in increasing or decreasing the gap between two channels,” says Shukla.

Also, every channel is strong in a particular region of the country. Colors scores in Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, STAR Plus in

Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh while Zee TV has its major loyalists in Punjab and Maharashtra.

While it is clearly a battle between the top three, Sony and Imagine are refusing to fall behind in the race for TRPs. “Sony has differentiated programming and is clearly a dark horse. Kaun Banega Crorepati with Amitabh Bachchan as host should turn around Sony’s fortunes,” says Bharathi Pradhan, The Telegraph columnist and editor of The Film Street Journal.

Bringing up the rear is Imagine which may not have come in all guns blazing, but scores for its reality programming. “Our Swayamvar series and the reality formats that we have come up with have established us as an innovator in this genre,” says Imagine’s Madhok.

As the battle of the GECs rages on, every channel worth its TRPs is getting ready for the competition ahead. While many predict that the shelf life of shows will decrease to just about a 12-month running time, others see a lot more channels jumping into the fray, with a reported 200 new licences to be handed over in the next few years!

As Bharathi Pradhan predicts: “There will be more channel surfing than channel watching!”

THE TOP TEN

1. Pavitra Rishta (Zee TV)

What: The tale of the trials and tribulations of a lower middle-class family in a Mumbai chawl has been at the top of the charts for the last few weeks. The show that brought TV diva Ekta Kapoor back into the reckoning and gave a new lease of life to Zee TV.

Why: Ekta’s least melodramatic soap. Yet every episode ensures that the interest is kept alive and the finger kept away from the remote button. With keeping it real as the brief, Pavitra Rishta has taken less than a year to zoom to the top, with star pair Manav and Archana (“Will they get together or won’t they?” is the question that keeps viewers hooked, episode after episode) being the driving force behind its ever-increasing TRP count.

TRP range: Between 4.5 and 5.7

t2 verdict: Repetitive and regressive at times, but the engaging plot and identifiable characters ensure a loyal audience.

 

2. Pratigya (STAR Plus)

What: Yet another love story, this one between a simple girl and the local goon. On air for less than a year now, Pratigya has been one of the big gainers for STAR Plus.

Why: Emphasis on tradition and a refreshing romantic track have grabbed eyeballs for this seven-month-old soap.

TRP range: Between 4.0 and 5.3

t2 verdict: Small-town India scores yet again.

 

3. Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai (STAR Plus)

What: Dealing with the changes in a young girl’s life and relationships post-marriage, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai has rarely dropped out of the top 10 since its December 2008 launch.

Why: “Simplicity equals success,” says producer Rajan Shahi. Yeh Rishta still holds the record for being the best primetime fiction launch ever, hitting a TVR of 7.9 in its inaugural episode. Two years later, it shows no sign of slowing down.

TRP range: Between 3.7 and 4.5

t2 verdict: Rural Rajasthan backdrop = sky-high TRPs!

 

4. Bidaai (STAR Plus)

What: Two inseparable sisters form the backbone of this Rajan Shahi production. A smash hit from day one, Bidaai slipped in between, only to come back strong a few weeks ago — when one of the sisters was bumped off!

Why: Launched at a time when the audience was facing K-serial fatigue, Bidaai scored for its less melodramatic approach and its women-connect premise. “The show’s earthy appeal works,” says Shahi.

TRP range: Between 3.5 and 4.5

t2 verdict: Strikes a chord with the woman viewer

 

5. Balika Vadhu (Colors)

What: Set in Rajasthan and focusing on child marriage, the Balika Vadhu phenomenon changed the face of Indian television when it was launched two summers ago. Colors owed its dream run primarily to the Balika Vadhu success story.

Why: The strong social message and child actor Avika Gor found instant favour with the audience: woman, man and child. BV sat pretty at number one for months after it first invaded Indian living rooms in July 2008. The TRP count may have dwindled of late, but the recent leap and a new Anandi (Pratyusha Banerjee) may well herald a resurgence.

TRP range: Between 3.0 and 4.0

t2 verdict: Don’t write off Balika Vadhu yet!

 

6. Uttaran (Colors)

What: Yet another women-only drama, yet another TRP topper.

Why: The tale of love, deceit, sacrifice, jealousy and betrayal has a strong woman viewership. “Uttaran’s simple premise and strong performances have ensured a ready audience,” says Ashvini Yardi, programming head, Colors.

TRP range: Between 3.0 and 3.5

t2 verdict: The dark horse.

 

7. Na Aana Is Des Laado (Colors)

What: With its focus on female infanticide, Laado is another Colors show highlighting a social evil.

Why: On Indian TV, nothing sells like a woman struggling in a male-dominated world. Meghna Malik as Ammaji is the top draw.

TRP range: Between 2.9 and 3.3

t2 verdict: Not run-of-the mill.

 

8. Jhansi Ki Rani (Zee TV)

What: The life and times of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi is captured in a half-hour show on weekdays. Not even a year on air and Jhansi Ki Rani is a hit already.

Why: Coming as a breath of fresh air to an audience fed on melodramatic tearjerkers, knee-high protagonist Ulka Gupta was primarily responsible for the initial TRP rush. A leap later, the show is still going strong.

TRP range: Between 2.5 and 3.2

t2 verdict: History still works. And through a woman’s eyes.

 

9. Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo (Zee TV)

What: A young girl’s poverty-stricken family in a backward Bihar village is forced to sell her off in order to make ends meet. One of Zee TV’s most popular shows in recent times. The Cal connect? Roopa Ganguly!

Why: Rustic and earthy. Protagonist Laali is a hit with the women audience.

TRP range: Between 2.2 and 2.5

t2 verdict: Strong performances see this one sail through. Wish the title wasn’t such a tongue-twister, though!

 

10. Dance India Dance Lil Masters (Zee TV)

What: A bunch of nimble-footed kids show off their dance skills in this popular dance show. An in-form Mithun takes care of the rest.

Why: The only reality show to feature in the top 10. Superb talent and the masti on the sets works for DID.

TRP range: Between 1.9 and 2.3

t2 verdict: Kya baat, kya baat, kya baat!