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Long-running fictional shows: The bread-earners of GECs

Despite decreasing attention span of audiences and shifting loyalties, general entertainment channels still have long-running tent-poled properties that are going strong. BestMediaInfo caught up with channels, media planners and brands to understand how these add value to the journey of a channel

Long-running fictional shows: The bread-earners of GECs

Despite decreasing attention span of audiences and shifting loyalties, general entertainment channels still have long-running tent-poled properties that are going strong. BestMediaInfo caught up with channels, media planners and brands to understand how these add value to the journey of a channel

Akansha Mihir Mota | Mumbai | August 24, 2016


With an increase in competition as well as the number of shows, no one can really calculate or predict how they will perform. It is equally tough for a show to register in the top list. Each time while launching a show, channels bet high on their performance despite the unreliable nature.

But once a show gets a loyal viewership and strikes a chord, the channels nourish it with good content, characters and marketing techniques. This is how the seeds of a long-running fiction show are sowed. Slowly and steadily, the seeds grow into a huge tree and bear fruit.

BestMediaInfo tries to analyse the performance and benefits of long-running shows that have crossed 1,000 episodes. The list starts with the likes of Ek Mahal Ho Sapnon Ka, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii, Kasautii Zindagii Kay, Kkusum, Kumkum-Ek Pyara Sa Bandhan, Woh Rehne Waali Mehlon Ki, Bhabhi and Baa Bahoo Aur Baby. In recent times, it is Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah, CID, Sasural Simar Ka, Kumkum Bhagya, Sath Nibhana Saathiya and the recently concluded Balika Vadhu.


Long-running shows rule

Considering the massive reach, advertisers prefer to promote on such long-running shows as they reach a larger consumer base. It’s a symbiotic relationship that the GECs and advertisers share.

Generally out of 10 fiction shows, one or two turn out to be game-changers for the channels and help them grow. Such shows become sure-shot rating earners for channels and get them instant recognition and money from advertisers.

For nearly two decades now, CID has ruled the crime fiction genre with power-packed performances and gripping storylines. Over the years, it has kept pace with the changing consumer preferences and sentiments, while sustaining their interest.

Anup Vishwanathan Anup Vishwanathan

Anup Vishwanathan, Senior Vice-President, Marketing, Sony Entertainment Television, said, “CID is one of the longest-running shows, not only on our channel but on Indian television. The show has a huge loyal fan base and to be on air for 19 years is an unparalleled feature which we as a channel are proud of. It has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for having canned the longest single shot of 111 minutes.”

Crime Patrol, a non-fiction crime-based show on the channel has also been running for over a decade now.

Vishwanathan added, “At Sony, we celebrate and cherish the popularity and recall value of the shows created over the years. We have witnessed admiration and fondness for the characters across all age groups and strata. While it is impossible to quantify the monetary additions to the business, they sure are part of the channel’s identity. The show has created a legacy and iconic characters.”

He commented, “The fan following of the show is only growing by the day. Both the shows enjoy a loyal set of followers who have helped in making them what they are today. Fans are so emotionally connected to the shows that we receive mails from across the globe expressing their love for the shows.”

Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah is now the longest running fiction show in the industry (after Balika Badhu ended) and earned itself a place in the Limca Book of Records. The show completed 2,000 episodes and the achievement was marked with heavy marketing and promotion.

Anooj Kapoor Anooj Kapoor

Anooj Kapoor, Senior EVP and Business Head, Sony SAB always believed that the show would work for the channel since the beginning, “Because the original column had already completed 30 years in the magazine Chitralekha and continued to be popular even at the time when we launched the show, we certainly thought that if it does capture the imagination of the viewers then it certainly will be able to last very long.”

Kapoor said, “Taarak Mehta ensures stability because the advertisers and the consumers both have a certain level of trust and expectation from a long-running brand and the very fact that it is long running means that the consumers’ expectations have been consistently met.”

Elaborating on the response of Taarak Mehta on the FTA channels, Kapoor said, “The response has been fantastic. In fact, all SAB shows have done amazingly well and it is so heart-warming to see that something like even a silent comedy is not only well perceived by the rural audience but also got a 2+ rating on PAL for a fairly long time. That gave us further satisfaction that current and past hit shows like Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chasmah, Lapataganj, RK Laxman Ki Duniya, FIR, Left Right Left, which were created for urban audience, resonated equally well with the rural audience.”

Taarak Mehta completely adheres to the channel’s philosophy as it perfectly complements SAB’s positioning of ‘Asli Mazaa Sab Ke Saath Aata Hai’. It nicely depicts people of various religions staying together in harmony and embodies constructive social messaging, which endeavours to transform the society in a positive way. Perhaps that is also the reason why PM Narendra Modi chose Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chasmah to be associated with his Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.

After eight years of run, Balika Vadhu, the longest running Hindi fiction show, came to an end on July 31. While the show gained immense popularity with its unique concept of child marriage, the post-leap drama of the daily soap that introduced several new faces failed to connect with the audience. The show was shifted to the 6 pm time slot from 8 pm after the leap and gradually came to an end.

Sunjoy Waddhwa Sunjoy Waddhwa

Sunjoy Waddhwa, CMD, Sphereorigins, and also Producer of Balika Vadhu, said, “It has been a fantastic ride as far as Balika Vadhu is concerned. It has been a real iconic show for our company. Apart from commercial success, it has given us a lot of value. I would give full marks to the audience and the writers for the success of the show. It had its ups and downs for sure but the writers made it all possible. We motivated them and in terms of visualisation, we put the production part of it. On the storytelling part, the writers did a great job. They kept on linking things together so that an interesting story can be told. The actors have also contributed to the show immensely. With Balika, we could also take up a lot of social issues and that helped in storytelling.”

“It was the show that launched Colors. It did extremely well at the launch and also for the couple of years to follow. We were No. 1 for a very long time and that really helped the channel. With the help of Balika Vadhu, the channel sustained and put newer products that took longer time to pertain to the market. With a strong flagship like Balika, it gave them money and strength to invest in other properties on the channel.”

The Ekta Kapoor saga

Ekta Kapoor's popular drama show – Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi – had earned a strong and loyal fan following before it went off air. The show starred Indian politician and former model-actress Smriti Irani as the lead protagonist. Aired between 2000 and 2008 on Star Plus. Kyunki put Irani on the map and gave a lot of fame to the producer of the show, Ekta Kapoor. Many believed that Kyunki was the first TV show by Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms (now Balaji Productions).

Hum Paanch, a popular sitcom on Zee TV in its initial days, was also a Balaji production. It was the era when most of Ekta Kapoor’s shows were doing wonders for Star Plus. She was mostly making shows for Star Plus back then and in return, it turned out to be a blessing for the channel as the rating, viewership and the advertising increased by leaps and bounds.

In the recent BARC ratings, Zee TV’s Kumkum Bhagya led the pack with 12.369 million impressions. This is another show that is doing wonders for the channel. It is one of the top-watched shows in the country. Pavitra Rishta is one such long-running show that came out with flying colours.

Flip side of the coin: The Media view

It was necessary for BestMediaInfo to also talk to media planners as they know the side of broadcasters and what advertisers want and can spend. Media planners believe advertisers don’t spend money on a single show but a mix of them. Brands look at the show ratings, marketing spent, target audience and then take a final decision of advertising. Media planners say long-running fictional shows mutually benefit the advertisers as well as the channels.

Sudipto Chatterjee Sudipto Chatterjee

Mentioning that the rating of the long-running fictional shows don't fluctuate much and that attract a lot of brands, Sudipto Chatterjee, Senior Business Director, MediaCom, said, “Such kind of shows have a loyal set of audience. Earlier there were fewer long-running fictional shows. Therefore, they used to have a very high rating. Now, the ratings are comparatively lower as fragmentation in the channels has occurred. Many new channels have come into existence and with them the number of fictional shows has also increased.”

Chatterjee added, “Nevertheless, the comparative lower ratings don’t bother the advertisers much. They take into the account the fluctuation in the ratings. Long-running fiction shows don’t have much fluctuation in their ratings as they have a loyal viewership.”

Chatterjee said, “Generally the brands don’t bother about the content of the show until and unless they have to do certain brand integration. As far as GECs are concerned, the advertisers are only concerned about the reach and consistency of shows.”

Vanita Keswani Vanita Keswani

Supporting Chatterjee’s views, Vanita Keswani, CEO, Madison Media Sigma, said, “The running of the show is a matter of how the channel can maintain consumer interest and following. If viewer interest lessens and rating drops, no channel would keep the show alive even if planned. Ultimately advertisers buy any show based on ratings and viewership. But advertisers place confidence on long-running shows as they have loyal viewers and have minimal variation in viewership, which helps in assured media deliveries.”

Anita Nayyar Anita Nayyar

Talking about how the long-running shows benefit the brands that advertising on them, Anita Nayyar, CEO India and South-Asia, Havas Media, said, “The long-running shows bring in a lot of stability to the channel in terms of viewership. The popular stories have an advantage in terms of viewership. There is a viewing loyalty that these shows have. The shows that are doing well are the long-running ones only. The shows that have not delivered are aborted in the middle. Even the prime time shows, if they don’t perform, are shifted to a different time slot. Once the content catches the attention of the viewers, the brands come in. The brands look at consistent loyalty and viewership.”

She says brands should take into account the content of the shows before advertising. “You can’t have a technology ad with a Mahabharata and Ramayana, but obviously the audience is important as such soaps have a lot of audience. It’s the function of the audience also. I personally feel it is very important for the brands to look at the content synergy with the brand to the show than just the viewership. It is always good to advertise in a relevant environment.”

Nayyar is of the view that it is difficult to get the ad slots of such shows at a lower rate. She said, “On a higher viewership show, there will always be an inventory issue. The ad budget on the shows depends on the objective of the brand and the target audience and on that basis you decide on the genres. It is also about how efficient is your buy on a particular channel. For anybody who wants to reach out, shows with high rating will always be the priority.”

Shekhar Banerjee Shekhar Banerjee

Having a different perspective, Shekhar Banerjee, COO, Madison Media Infinity, said, “We have no proven case of better ROI from long-term inventory buys on a particular show, it is actually counter-intuitive as such a strategy will have higher duplication. For a media planner, the current performance of the show is more critical than the number of episodes the show has ran for. However, we have definitely seen ROI from sponsoring a high-performing show for long term. This should be leveraged if there is a good synergy between the brand and the show content.”

Rahul Kothari Rahul Kothari

Rahul Kothari, Associate Vice-President, Buying, (Zenith) at Publicis Media India says that as far as long-running shows are concerned, they are giving GRPs to the channel and in today’s scenario, whether we agree or not, GRPs are the sole driver of perception and revenue is concerned. It doesn’t matter to the brand if the show is long running or not. He further said, “India being such a vast culturally different country, there can be an audience for any show. Such programming definitely benefits the channel and makes them stand at number one or two in the genre. They help them to command the position in the market. Eighty per cent of the brands go with the ratings because they need audience. Brands that advertise mostly on these channels are from the FMCG sector as they need audience. It doesn't matter to the brand if the show is long running or not. The brands only need viewership.”

Ultimately it's the brands' money!

It’s ultimately the money of brands that is being spent on the shows advertising slots. How else would the channels earn even? Long-running fictional shows are a good place for the advertisers to spend as they get to promote their brands in a matter of few seconds and reach lakhs of people in such a short time span. But it does become an expensive proposition for the advertisers to promote the brands on these shows as they are very popular and have a loyal viewership base. The ad inventory available at disposal is not much, which in turn doesn’t give them much leverage to negotiate the ad rates.

BK Rao BK Rao

BK Rao, Deputy Marketing Manager, Parle Products, said, “The brands might not have a long-term association with such shows because branding with them would become an extremely expensive proposition. But there are quite a few brands that would like to associate with such shows on a short-term basis. As an advertiser, when I advertise, I am looking at an assured GRP and delivery. Such long-running shows give us assurance and guarantee to reach my audience primarily.”

He added, “For the long-running channels, it is usually brands that approach to advertise on them. The channels might have a slight edge here. As an advertiser, these long-running shows give us assured viewership. Although the reach is huge, long-running shows have a limited reach and only concerned about the people who follow them. Each show has its own clientele and audience. Also, there are a few viewers who are flirtatious and they keep coming and going out.”

Rao said that brands really don’t care about the content of the shows. He said, “Irrespective of the content, these shows have got a huge viewership. We at Parle would like to advertise on such shows till the time we get the viewership. Advertising on these shows has a definite effect on the sales. The moment you put spots on these shows, you get instant recognition.”

Piyush Srivastava Piyush Srivastava

Piyush Srivastava, DGM Marketing, Head Media at Usha International, says brands do benefit by advertising on such shows as they have loyal viewership. He also finds it important for the creative idea of the ads to be different to hook the viewers. He said, “If you look at all these long-running shows, in terms of their deliveries and reach, they meet the objective. If you are looking at the mass audience, which doesn’t belong to the niche segment, then these are the shows where we will possibly go to. Long-running fictional shows have a loyal set of audience. It is unlikely for people to change the channel during the breaks. Nowadays the breaks have become even shorter. So, definitely the brands do benefit out of it and it’s the creatives that also matter. The TVC has to be differentiated. These serials have a loyal audience, which will definitely make more connect.

Srivastava also said, “Possibly most of the people will not know of the content of the show. Advertisers don’t have that much of time to look at the content; they just see how popular the show is. A few brands have internal guidelines that require the content to match their philosophy.”

Whatever the views may be, one has to agree that apart from entertaining India since their inception, these long-running fictional shows add value to the GECs and are a promotion platform for the marketers.



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