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Retrospect 2016: Fiction or reality – what India watched on Hindi GECs?

While fiction retained the title of bread and butter with eight out of the top 10 shows of 2016 in U+R markets, non-fiction served best as dessert

Retrospect 2016: Fiction or reality – what India watched on Hindi GECs?

While fiction retained the title of bread and butter with eight out of the top 10 shows of 2016 in U+R markets, non-fiction served best as dessert

Raushni Bhagia | Mumbai | January 11, 2017


It has been proved yet again that fiction shows are the bread and butter of Hindi general entertainment channels (GECs) and are a daily diet for viewers. While the reality shows are like special delicacies that are enjoyed only occasionally, fiction shows are major viewership generators for the channels.

This explanation only gets reinstated as we take a closer look at the most-watched shows of 2016 (Week 1 to Week 48). Barring the Stardust Awards (12.600 million Impressions) on Colors that appeared at No. 3 in the rankings and Super Dancer (8.614 million Impressions) on Sony Entertainment Television that took the 10th spot, all the other eight shows are fiction properties in the U+R markets.

Nagin grabs two out of the first three spots (Nagin with 17.694 million Impressions and Nagin 2 with 13.752 million Impressions) in the U+R and Urban markets.

In the U+R combined markets, four out of the top 10 spots were grabbed by Colors’ properties, two spots by Zee TV and Star Plus each and one spot by Sony Entertainment Television and Zee Anmol each.


In the Urban markets, Stardust Awards (at No. 2 with 9.095 million Impressions), The Kapil Sharma Show (at No. 9 with 5.761 million Impressions) and Super Dancer (at No. 10 with 5.577 million Impressions) were listed in the top 10 list.

In the Urban markets, four of the top 10 spots were grabbed by Colors, and two spots each by Zee TV, Star Plus and Sony Entertainment Television.


Though a lot of reality shows and non-fiction shows were launched on all the four major broadcasters in the genre, merely one could make it to the top 10 list in the combined U+R markets and two in the Urban markets. The costs incurred in making a reality show are much more than that for fiction shows. The difference in costs is so much that a single episode of a reality show can cost on an average of Rs 30 lakh to about Rs 3 crore, against a fiction property that has an average cost of Rs 8-10 lakh per 22-minute episode.

In 2016, the Hindi GEC genre witnessed telecast of reality shows, including The Voice Kids (&TV), Power Couple (Sony), Comedy Classes (Life OK), So You Think You Can Dance (&TV), Sa Re Ga Ma Pa (Zee TV), Comedy Nights Kapil (Colors), Comedy Nights Bachao (Colors), India’s Got Talent (Colors), MasterChef (Star Plus), Super Dancer (Sony), Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa (Colors) and the ongoing shows Indian Idol (Sony), The Kapil Sharma Show (Sony), Bigg Boss (Colors), The Voice (&TV) and Aji Sunte Ho (Zee TV).


While this trend has no surprise elements, there are many reasons why GECs keep the cost factor aside when it comes to reality television. One being how it is important for the channels to bring newer set of audiences, possibly non-GEC fans, to the channels and the genre. Perception is another reason why channels continue to invest time, effort and money into the reality genre. A perception of a forward looking, dynamic and robust programming line-up attracts bigger and better advertisers too. The third reason can be to maintain a fine balance of sub-genres of programming, since one single genre can bring sharply skewed audience preferences.

The most important reason is that ultimately, whatever viewership these channels bring onto the table, are the fundamental game-changers in terms of rankings, perception, positioning, target audience and social media impressions around a channel.

Ashish Golwalkar Ashish Golwalkar

Ashish Golwalkar, SVP and Senior Creative Director, Sony Entertainment Television, who heads non-fiction at the channel, puts out a wonderful analogy, saying that we Indians can’t have a full meal without the main course, or the dessert. “Non-fiction is our dessert. It is not a binary decision based only on ratings. Perception too plays an important role. Also, impressions which we are looking at just now are a reflection of number of people and time spent per person. These two parameters are different for fiction and non-fiction and that’s how the advertisers divide their spends too.”

Golwalkar said a fiction show can be made in crores, while there are examples of non-fiction shows produced at a lower cost at times. Yes, we have examples of Mahabharata on Star Plus and Yuddh on Sony Entertainment Television, which were both fiction shows, costing crores.

Reality shows help in creating the maximum amount of meaty conversations around a channel. Then why doesn’t viewership certify popularity? Ashish Sehgal, COO, Zee Unimedia, said, “Over the years, the reality genre has seen a decrease in viewership numbers, may be due to the other screen options available. Also, television itself nowadays offers abundant options in the reality genre, which end up dividing the audience to a large extent, so much so that two dance reality shows were fighting for the same spot until recently.”

And now, two singing reality shows are also fighting for almost the same audience set. Even if the three shows – Indian Idol (8 PM), Dil Hai Hindustani (8 PM) and The Voice (9 PM) – are on different time bands, not many can watch the same sub-genre for two continuous hours.

Rural markets were watching Jodha Akbar (6.779 million Impressions) on Zee Anmol more. Jodha Akbar was the only show from the FTA bandwagon to appear in the top 10 list of U+R markets.

In the Rural markets, five spots are occupied by Zee Anmol shows, two each by Star Utsav and Colors, and one spot by Zee TV.


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