When Viacom 18 announced their decision to launch Comedy Central in India,the decision was viewed with some scepticism. The industry wondered how a niche 24-hour comedy channel would be received in the country and how the channel will compete with other general entertainment channels that also air comedy shows. People lead such stressful lives that we felt a definite need for a 24-hour comedy channel, says Ferzad Palia,Senior VP and General Manager,English Entertainment,Viacom18. The format of the channel is to show worlds best comedy. We arent concerned if we show it first or not, he adds.
Comedy Central,an American channel,was first launched in 1991. Since 2006,the channel has expanded globally with localised channels and on January 23,2012 it launched in India. However,the channel although dishing out various forms of comedy,isnt only sticking to new shows on television. For those who grew up in the 90s Kevin Arnold,Jerry Seinfeld and Eric Forman are familiar names. And so are the shows they were a part of The Wonder Years,Seinfeld and That 70s Show respectively. With television growing and producers taking to new shows,these popular shows took a backseat. Comedy Centrals programming for India has given them a new lease of life. Comedy works best on repeat, Palia points out.
The channel,however,has a fair mix of both American and British comedies. While shows like Allo Allo and Coupling are popular names from British television,That 70s Show,South Park,The Wonder Years and Seinfeld are popular American shows. While many have complained about the repeats of old shows,Palia confirms that they finalised the programming after much research. When we decided to launch the channel in India,we conducted a survey where we found out that most people faked about having liked a particular show. So many people who claimed to have liked Seinfeld or Goodness Gracious Me,did not even recognise the shows clip when I showed it to them.
Apart from these familiar shows which will perhaps help the channel bring in viewers,Comedy Central is also showcasing new shows,such as Happily Divorced and Faulty Towers,which havent been aired in India so far. We also have newer seasons of South Park and Saturday Night Live, says Palia,who believes it is a healthy mix of both new and old. The growing popularity of the channel is also testimony to the fact that Indians are now taking to niche channels. The channels two weeks TRPs have seen it in the top three slot among other English channels. Comedy is a broad genre,which cuts across ages,gender,race and so on. The genre is also universally appealing, says Renuka Pai,a pharmacologist and a regular viewer of the channel.
Comedy Central now plans to premiere at least 18 shows a month. We also want to have a clear demarcation between weekday and weekend programmes. We will not be showing repeats of shows from weekdays over the weekend, confirms Palia.