It’s been a tough ride for the Hindi GEC (pay TV) category over the last two years, with the category progressively losing share to movies, news and regional GECs over the 2015-17 period.
The second half of 2017 finally saw the category achieve some sense of stability, with no further drop in share. There were two contributors to this encouraging reversal of trend. The first one came in the form of non-fiction, especially via Kaun Banega Crorepati, which had a blockbuster season from end-August to early-November, providing impetus to a waning category. Other non-fiction shows, such as Khatron Ke Khiladi, also delivered well in this period.
The second contributor came in the form of the newly-launched Star Bharat, which went on air on August 28, 2017. The channel replaced Life OK as Star’s second Hindi GEC, but was treated as a new launch rather than a brand refresh. Savdhaan India was the only link between the two channels.
Star Bharat has scored impressive numbers, averaging about 35% higher in viewership compared to Life OK in its last phase. The channel has taken the No 2 rank in the urban HSM markets, and is consistently No 1 or a close No 2 in the All India (U+R) markets.
The channel’s success has been delivered via two flagship shows, i.e., Kya Haal Mr. Panchaal and Nimki Mukhiya. While both are very different in terms of their theme and characters, they have a common thread that has worked for the channel in general – light-hearted treatment of subjects set in a family context. ‘Innovation with relevance’ is on good display in these two shows, and on the channel in general.
Star Bharat has found its feet, but its real challenge will come now, because growing further from a strong base will be increasingly tough, especially because IPL is around the corner.
But one channel alone cannot change the category’s fortunes. When Colors launched in 2008, its impact was so high that it forced everyone else to relook at the basic tenets of primetime GEC programming. But that was an exceptional case of a mega launch that comes once in a lifetime.
Star Bharat’s success is less celebrated. While it may force other channels to relook at their content palette, it will be a more a tweak. But the need of the hour is not a tweak but a fundamental re-look. After all, the category’s fiction problems have not eased over the last six months. New shows continue to open at low levels of sub-2% ratings, despite highly-visible launch campaigns. And besides Kundali Bhagya, there is no enduring hit that launched post 2014.
Meanwhile, films (in the right, TV-friendly genres) continue to do well on TV, with Judwaa 2 and then Golmaal Again delivering blockbuster numbers for Star Gold. Kids genre has shown growth over the last year too, as have regional genres like Bangla and Marathi.
Clearly, audiences have enough to watch on TV. It’s for the Hindi GECs to get their share of attention. And Star Bharat has shown that it’s possible. Now waiting for another channel to take up this challenge.
This post first appeared on MXMIndia on my weekly column.