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Prospect 2017: Nine trends likely to dominate Hindi entertainment television

Among the nine major trends are repercussions of TRAI tariff order, demonetisation and its fading effects, shift of focus from saas-bahu relationships, and increasing importance of mobile screens

Prospect 2017: Nine trends likely to dominate Hindi entertainment television 

Among the nine major trends are repercussions of TRAI tariff order, demonetisation and its fading effects, shift of focus from saas-bahu relationships, and increasing importance of mobile screens 

Raushni Bhagia | Mumbai | January 6, 2017


The Hindi entertainment sector had a wonderful run through 2016 with both GEC and movie genres having an adventurous ride on content and advertising. Quality films on television, the complete year of BARC rural+urban data, demonetisation, rise of another vertical FTAs and the fantasy sub-genre of content ruled the GECs throughout the year.

As per BARC ratings, the average time spent per viewer increased by 25 seconds in HSM, by 2.18 minutes in HSM 1mn plus markets and by 11.21 minutes in the HSM urban markets. This shows rural India was more glued to television in 2016 and the pattern will only go higher in 2017, suggested experts.

In order to study the disparity between rural and urban markets, we compared the four week average (week 41-44) from 2015 and 2016.

If one analyses the average time spent in the genre, excluding Doordarshan, the increase in time spent was more than three times in 2016. The average time spent per viewer increased by 3.39 minutes in HSM, by 6.13 minutes in HSM 1mn plus markets and by 4.11 minutes in the HSM Urban markets. The reason for taking this data into consideration is that Doordarshan played Indian cricket matches in 2015 during this time period and cricket increases stickiness. But despite that, the time spent grew in this year.

How many of these trends will continue in 2017 is yet to be seen but the Hindi television space saw quite a profitable run in 2016. Speaking to a cross-section of industry experts, sketched nine major trends in the industry, including the repercussions of TRAI tariff order, demonetisation and its fading effects, shift of focus from saas-bahu relationships, increasing importance of mobile screens and much more.

Important areas to watch out for in 2017:

  1. Focus of fiction shifting from saas-bahu to love stories, other relationships
Sunjoy Waddhwa Sunjoy Waddhwa

While 2016 witnessed a lot of fantasy and supernatural content on the GEC genre, it looks like the trend won’t slow down until the second half of 2017. While Naagin and Brahmarakshas ruled 2016, Chandrakanta and a few others are setting the pace for 2017. The genre might give way to the other genres of programming as 2017 moves ahead. On the family drama segment, the focus is to move from saas-bahu relationships to other relationships within the family shows. Sunjoy Waddhwa, CMD, Sphereorigins, said, “Yes. The stories are shifting their focus from saas bahu to other relationships -- like love stories are going to be a big hit in 2017. The stories will still be within the families but the focus will shift to other relationships and other characters. We are a very slow country when it comes to changing pace and even this change will take time, but 2017 will be an important year for this change.”

Anooj Kapoor Anooj Kapoor

Anooj Kapoor, EVP and Business Head, SAB, said, “The genre struggled but survived in 2016. The challenges were two -fold; one was how to sustain shows without the consistent dose of over-hyped drama. Second, how to create new genres or formats that do not follow that stereotype and are still successful. In 2017, however, I hope the industry is able to create formats different from those that have been in vogue for over a decade and manage to make commercial success out of it.”

  1. Year for big-ticket shows

The year will see a lot of big properties on the Hindi GEC genre with Kaun Banega Crorepati making a comeback after three years. KBC is an expensive and lucrative (for viewership) choice for the broadcaster Sony Entertainment Television. Other than this, the genre will see other big ticket launches such as 24 Season 3 (Colors), Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’il Champs (Zee TV), Rising Star (Colors) and Dil Hai Hindustani (Star Plus).

“The rural and urban combined data has given a lot of confidence to the broadcasters and that is why a lot of monies are being thrusted into the programming, as well as marketing. However, another point to be noted is that actually, apart from Zee TV, none of the other top channels have a very strong contribution from rural, as much as from urban,” said another media expert.

  1. Dying effect of demonetisation
Rohit Gupta Rohit Gupta

Yes. You read it right. The industry is hopeful that the effects of demonetisation will fade away by the end of January. As Rohit Gupta, Head, Network Sales at Sony Pictures Networks India, said, “Advertising has had a great run until November when demonetisation happened.” Despite this huge roadblock, January looks better, he said. “…but it should start growing back to normal now, starting January,” Gupta said.

Soumya Acharya, Business Head, Zenith India was affirmative that the brands will come back. “FMCGs are already back to advertising to a large extent. Others should soon join, is what I think.”

Another media buyer however warned that even if the brands are back to spending, they aren’t aboard in a full-fledged manner. “The brands will remain cautious for some more time, before they come full throttle.”

Ruchir Tiwari Ruchir Tiwari

Ruchir Tiwari, Business Head, Zee Hindi Movie Cluster, said, “In the short term, it has been a challenge and there is an impact overall whether it is viewership or revenues. But I think it was more of a December phenomenon and things will start getting better this month (January).

  1. How does the tariff order pans out and its execution?

The telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI) had released a tariff order in 2016, which put down guidelines for the carriage fees and other charges involved in the distribution segment. While the order came around October 2016, the repercussions will be seen in 2017.

Ruchir Tiwari, Business Head, Zee Hindi Movie Cluster, said, “It is a drastic step for the broadcasting industry and it will be interesting to see how the order pans out, and how the industry and government move forward. As of now, it’s quite disruptive and it’s going to change a lot of things. Everyone will have to realign their strategy in terms of how to build reach and how to approach the consumer. Everything will start from the drawing board and many channels will have to redo their plans.”

  1. FTA might get a big boost

With the inclusion of rural viewership and stabilising this data, going further, the FTA is expected to get a lot of attention from all stakeholders, including brands. Since 2016 was the first full year of rural mapping, the empirical data will now be available for better planning and decisions in 2017.

Gupta from Sony reinstated, “The FTA channels will continue to grow and more rapidly in 2017, mainly because BARC is now reporting 50 per cent of its data as rural and that is the thrust area for every marketer now. Also, TV is very well penetrated in these markets now, other than other media platforms. Most brands are going to look at that area differently.”

A spokesperson from ZEEL too said, on condition of anonymity, “Zee TV always had a stronghold in the internal by-lanes of rural and small town markets, as well as urban India. With Zee Anmol and Anmol Movies now, we are experiencing even more pull for the content and hence the brands too are getting attracted to this section of the market.” He pointed out that Zee TV is feeling the heat of competition increasing in these markets which in itself gives a testimony of the demand.

  1. Mobile screens will get established as parallel screens

Though everybody kept on saying how mobile screens were building up as parallel screens for television, no concrete efforts were being made by broadcasters to tap these. Time and again it’s been proven how mobile phones are establishing themselves and they can either be converted to a strong competition to television screens or a strong support, sharing the viewership. It started in 2015 when Star India launched Hotstar in a big way and then in 2016, Sony Liv, Ozee and Voot came out in the open to keep their viewers – no matter which screen. While these OTT mobile platforms have established themselves, 2017 is expected to see a lot of activity as the broadcasters might fight for each eyeball that they can attract.

Sunil Buch Sunil Buch

Sunil Buch, Chief Business Officer, ZEEL, who primarily takes care of Zindagi, said, “Factors like smartphones, live streaming apps, expanding internet connectivity, cutting-edge technology and social networking have transformed the experience of watching television from linear to an era of ‘Anytime, Anywhere and Any Device’ availability of content. 2017 will surely see a content evolution in India with social surround playing a key role. The introduction to world content with a differentiated storyline will be a trend to look out for in 2017.”

  1. Digitisation Phase IV

While the industry was grappling with the issue of demonetisation and trying to come out of it, the Delhi High Court gave out a judgement with a final call for digitisation Phase III and IV. The broadcasters rejoiced at the decision and suggested how it can be another positive game changer in 2017.

Neeraj Vyas Neeraj Vyas

Neeraj Vyas, EVP and Business Head, Sony Pictures Networks India Hindi movies cluster, said, “Phase IV has been pushed to April and that’s a step in the right direction, to not follow the chaos that we saw in Phase III. If we want the country to be completely digital, analogue has to be phased out and by the end of 2017, I feel that a lot of this would have been done and achieved.”

  1. Categories that will rise

Television has proved itself as the strongest medium to advertise and no brand can shy away from that fact. While FMCG remain the staple diet of the GECs, the categories that might be seen as more aggressive in the coming year are e-commerce, mobile handsets, service providers and online wallets. As a common voice, media experts suggested how the handset category will grow because of the increasing excitement about new-age technology and cheaper smartphones. On the other hand, the mobile service providers will continue to be active in 2017 in an effort to give a healthy fight to the new competitor Jio.

Gupta said, “Category wise, the handset category and the whole telecom space saw good rise mainly on the back of the 4G launch for everyone – this sector had otherwise come down, but it came up in 2016. It will continue in 2017 since the space is getting more competitive with Jio coming in. Handsets because of smartphones will continue to grow. We saw consolidation in the e-commerce space with a lot of smaller clients going away, but the major players are still there and they might get more aggressive in 2017. FMCGs will continue to be very strong since they have seen a healthy growth also. Online wallets will also be seen a lot.”

  1. Sony Entertainment Television: A success story?

Sometimes, numbers speak for a trend and Sony Entertainment Television was one important success story of 2016. The channel had somehow started losing its charm around 2013 and was criticised for losing ground. In 2016, it made a big investment towards programming and that was to bring The Kapil Sharma Show on board on its weekend slots and the dance reality shows Super Dancer too clicked well with the audience despite being in the debut season. It is expected that in 2017, the channel will either continue its growth in the upward direction or it will stay where it is -- at No. 3 and 4 spot intermittently. The channel started off in 2016 at No. 8 or below in the BARC rankings.

A media planner who didn’t want to be quoted said, “They will definitely not slip back to No. 8 or so, if they hold onto their weekends, at least. On the weekdays, they still need a lot of work to be done. They have a stronger male viewership than other players and they must try to maintain that.”

Some other trends voiced by the industry:

Tiwari explained a few important trends and concerns of the Hindi movie genre in 2016. He said, “2016 was the year of content-driven films like Pink and Dear Zindagi. Another trend was big budget films getting average ratings on television. Historically, big ticket premieres delivered bigger viewership but this year, films like Sultan, Bajirao Mastani and Dilwale under the current rating system, BARC, failed to deliver even half of it.”

Raising concerns about the pricing disparity, he said, “We observed that pan India viewer palettes are really reflecting in the changing taste of the viewership. At 20 per cent viewership gained by the genre, Hindi movies barely gets seven per cent revenue share of the total advertising spends on TV.”

Vyas voiced the same opinion saying that rationalising the price point is the need of the hour and at the same time it is the biggest challenge for the genre. “We are virtually at par with the GECs in terms of reach but the pricing is still as per the old days. Also, CPT is the need of the hour to set these things right. Ultimately, we are reporting a very large universe, if it doesn’t happen now, then when?”

Akash Chawla Akash Chawla

Akash Chawla, Business Head, Zee Studios, said, “It gets challenging for a content maker as the cinema viewer’s tastes are getting more and more discerning. The ‘formula’ doesn't work. But still, we have strong movie releases lined up for 2017, including Aamir Khan Productions’ Secret Superstar, Tapsee and Nana Patekar’s Tadkaa and our travel comedy film with Irrfan. 2017 looks sizeable.”

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