The past few years have seen Hindi GECs experiment with content, with fictional shows shifting from family dramas to themes like occult, supernatural etc. But long-running shows like CID (19 years) and Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah (eight years) are the ones that continue to see an uptick in viewership every passing week.
While content certainly is king, the popularity of characters also plays an important role, especially in the case of shows in the comedy and crime genres, like Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah and Crime Patrol. “Characterisation backed by a strong concept and engaging storyline allows us to not only retain existing viewers, but at relevant dramatic highpoints also recruit newer audiences,” feels Raj Nayak, CEO, Colors.
For a show like Taarak Mehta…, the fact that the show has a linear storyline appeals to an audience that is looking for light-hearted family entertainment. Also, the characters in the show are relatable.
For an advertiser, a long-running fiction show is a ready pool of loyal audiences that relate to the show’s content and characters. The consistent performance year-on-year instills confidence even in the minds of advertisers, who are more likely to invest in such programmes.
Debraj Tripathy, managing director of MediaCom India, agrees that because long-running shows have a large base of viewers, it makes sense for advertisers to associate with such shows.
However, sustaining a long-running show can be very challenging for the production house and channel alike, as it battles audience fatigue and the changing content paradigm. It is in such a situation that shows resort to spikes like leaps, killing a popular character or introducing an important character, among others. While spikes are instruments producers use to enhance a story, over-reliance on these elements can damage a story as well.
Meanwhile, stickiness in non-fiction or reality formats work differently, as most shows like Bigg Boss, Indian Idol, KBC, Roadies, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, etc, have had a run of over seven to eight seasons, but with seasonal breaks. While innovation in terms of the host, tasks, contestants and audience engagement help drive audience interest, driving stickiness is not that easy. However, advertisers prefer to engage with a known format and that has seen shows like Roadies run for 12 years with Hero Honda as the main sponsor.
In the content curation business, there is so much to learn that one needs to be on their toes every single day, identifying the existing need gaps in the entertainment space and addressing them. After a show is launched, audience feedback plays an important role in developing the content further. “The thumb rule is: If the foundation is strong, it leaves room for experimentation, making way for the show to be sustained for a longer duration,” Nayak asserts.