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Won’t take too long for viewers to return, says Manisha Sharma of Colors

After surviving through four months of lockdown with reruns of old shows, Colors becomes the first pay GEC to get fresh content. In a conversation with, Manisha Sharma, Chief Content Officer, Hindi Mass Entertainment, Viacom18, talks about the new programming strategy of Colors and how lockdown has changed content consumption habits of audiences

Manisha Sharma

Leading general entertainment channel Colors is getting fresh programming back on TV in full force as it plans to have new content available between 7 pm and 10 pm on weekdays and between 8 pm and 10 pm on the weekends.

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Talking about the impact of the lockdown on viewership habits of audiences, Manisha Sharma, Chief Content Officer, Hindi Mass Entertainment, Viacom18, said there has been a significant shift when it comes to content consumption habit of the audiences and it will take some time before things get back to the pre-Covid levels. The channel, she said, is tailoring new content keeping the evolved consumer preferences in mind.

“We have always designed our programming strategy keeping our viewers’ first. We are certain that whatever we bring to them will be liked and appreciated by them. The environment is extremely fluid, and we are closely monitoring the viewer's preferences to understand their tastes and take further steps,” she said.


Mentioning the shift in the audience’s habits during the lockdown, she said, “In the absence of new content, we have seen a shift in the viewers’ content consumption habits. In this phase, family viewing has gained more prominence, people turned to mythological shows for comfort and entertainment; the trend gradually picked up and the audience soon developed a palate for classics. At the same time, there was a great demand for the previous shows and soon reruns started to rule the viewership.”

She said it won’t take too long for viewers to return to the original habit of appointment viewing. “As the content offerings now change with fresh episodes being aired, viewers will slowly move back to their original habit of appointment viewing. While the initial optics might be slow, we are certain that it will gradually pick up owing to the engaging storyline, highpoints, plot twists and intrigue around the characters,” Sharma added.

All TV shoots were stalled when the lockdown was announced in the second half of March. Almost a week into the lockdown, all GECs started running out of fresh inventory and had to rely on the rerun of their old shows to maintain viewership. Though GECs recorded decent viewership during this period, the advertising and subscription revenue dwindled as the economy went into a tailspin. According to rough estimates, channels lost almost 60% of their advertising revenue during this period.

Talking about the comeback strategy for Colors as the economy gradually opens up and the channel pushes for fresh content, Sharma said, “The audience has been craving for original content and we are in fact the first broadcasters to take the plunge and air fresh programming first. Slowly getting accustomed to the new normal, we have designed our programming strategy accordingly.”

The channel started airing fresh episodes of Khatron Ke Khiladi last week and started airing two of its popular fiction shows Shakti Astitva Ke Ehsaas Kii and Barrister Babu this week.

Starting next week, the channel will be running other fiction shows such as Choti Sarrdaarni, Naati Pinky, Shubharambh and Pavitra Bhagya.

“Furthermore, we are strengthening our content repository with the launch of the new romantic thriller Ishq Mein Marjaawan. Making a gradual progression, we will air Naagin in the coming weeks while firming up our weekend programming. We will have fresh content available from 7-10 pm on weekdays and 8-10pm on the weekends, providing an entire gamut of shows for the viewers,” Sharma said.

Talking about the rise in the viewership of OTT platforms and the impact it will have on TV, Sharma said, “OTT and linear television have always coexisted and the larger mass audience watching television comes from the smaller markets. Hence, the target audiences of both the platforms vary.”

“Majority of the audience in our country still swears by linear television even in the OTT-driven environment and the outburst in FTA channel viewership is a testimony to it. We are cognisant of the new environment and are modifying our content propositions to suit the audience's preferences,” Sharma added.

The lockdown has been a sort of double whammy for the TV channels as they didn’t only lose the advertising monies but also saw a lot of reduction in number of subscriptions and an increase in the number of consumers who went for downgrading of their plans.

Answering a query on how broadcasters are planning to live with the decreased number of paying audiences, Sharma said, “I believe downgrading packages or abandoning cable TV is an obvious reaction to the unavailability of new content. With the economy going topsy-turvy, people are tightening their purse strings and looking at more pocket-friendly options. However, we feel it is a short-term shift and with the availability of new content and new show offerings, the viewers will once again switch back to their original GEC packs.”

Mentioning the marketing strategy for its ongoing and upcoming shows, Sharma said, “We are continuously evolving with the process to evaluate viewers’ responses at every step of the way. While it is too early to predict, but in case we observe a shift in audience response, we will adapt to it. The audience’s affinity towards their favourite characters plays a major role in re-establishing their connection with the show and we are focusing on this very factor. Keeping our characters at the centre, we have devised all our programming and marketing communication. They are the soul of the show and creating Kahani Ab Tak capsules that take the audience through their favourite characters’ journey so far has helped us to familiarise the audience with the show once again. Along with the marketing surround sound, we are banking on the highpoints and various other storyline hooks to keep viewers intrigued.”

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