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Sony Pal, Zindagi: Practice towards a ‘dramatic change’

With Zindagi and Pal, Indian television has enterered the territory of genre-specific channels.

Increasing audience fragmentation is now pushing broadcasters to create and distribute content that exclusively entertains a defined target audience. Increasing audience fragmentation is now pushing broadcasters to create and distribute content that exclusively entertains a defined target audience.

Shailja Kejriwal, CEO of Zee TV, was getting tired of watching regular set of daily soaps on Hindi GECs (General Entertainment Channels). It was time for a “dramatic change”. For inspiration, Kejriwal decided to look across the border in search of content that was targeted, timed and “bespoke”. The result — Zee’s brand new channel Zindagi —  which has changed the landscape of Indian screens with quality Pakistani content with the likes of Zindagi Gulzar Hai, Aunn Zaara, Maat and Kitni Girhain  Baaki Hai.

Switch over to Pal, a new channel from Sony, which is “targeting women aged between 15 and 34.” The channel was launched early this month with an aim to “applaud the entire gamut of emotions of womanhood and celebrate her journey through various moments that define her.” Then there is Investigation Discovery, that offers true stories of crime, dubbed in Hindi. In a few months Epic —  which will be India’s first all mythology and history channel — will be launched, including another exclusive entertainment channel from Zee.

Join all the dots and we have a burgeoning list of genre specific channels. The youth-based programming of erstwhile music channels such as MTV and Channel V has paved the way for targeted programming.

With content moulded for a specific audience, are the GECs about to get a real makeover? Will we get a breather from daily soaps that go on endlessly and defy all boundaries of logic? It seems that there is a long wait for a paradigm shift, but it’s a start. “There will always be three to four players offering a variety of programming in the fiction, non-fiction,  and movies genres. But the new draw is that there will be a rise of genre-specific channels,” says Kejriwal.

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Increasing audience fragmentation is now pushing broadcasters to create and distribute content that exclusively entertains a defined target audience. In India, a rise in the number of digital households has increased the expectations of the audience . “Today, the audience demands diverse viewing opportunities. Digitisation will lead to subscription-driven, specialty channels like Epic,” says Mahesh Samat, Epic’s Managing Director.

But will the twain ever meet? Will the GEC peacefully co-exist with ‘Genre Exclusive Channel’? Rahul Johri, a senior executive from Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, feels it is time for clear and specialised content. “People have had their fill of GECs. There will no longer be a mixed bag to chase,” he says.

When it comes to television, it’s the lady of the house who controls the remote but now the expectation is to watch stories with strong women characters. Sony Pal wants to monopolise on this. “When we say ‘Yeh Pal Hamara Hai’, it’s not a generic promise. It’s a direct, customised promise. Pal is talking about what women are today, not how the society or the family was a decade ago,” says Anooj Kapoor, Senior EVP and Business Head, Sony Pal and Sab TV.

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Television tracking companies too are keeping a hawk eye on the changes. “The viewer could be spoilt for choices in the next 2-3 years,” says Shailesh Kapoor, CEO, Ormax Media Pvt Ltd. He also feels that while a GEC would ideally want a show that clicks across markets and age groups, it is difficult to come up with such a magical idea all the time. Hence, targeting becomes necessary.

First published on: 19-09-2014 at 05:50 IST
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