It was circa 2000 when television witnessed a revolution. From strong women-oriented shows like Tara, Hasratein and Shanti, Indian television underwent a sea change with shows like Kyunki…Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi which kicked off the lengthy reign of K-serials. Right up until 2008, TV shows focussed on kitchen politics, women rivalry, every love story had its own vamp, and those oh-so-long bindis and extravagant outfits became a fashion statement! What was it about these shows that struck a chord with viewers then? Will we ever be able to decode that? Maybe not.
Come 2008, the tide changed and a new volley of content made its presence felt. It changed the storytelling landscape on Indian television. With social dramas and never-heard-before concepts, it seemed like Indian television has evolved. Today, viewers understand that the power of what works and doesn’t work on television lies in their hands. The power of the remote control is immense and that is what dictates and decides the fate of the broadcasters. The likes and preferences of viewers has seen broadcasters change their content strategies time and again to include shows that speak of international standards of production and storytelling.
Take Balika Vadhu which redefined content representation in the fiction space. Or in 2012, consider the Indian adaptation of Fox Studios’ espionage thriller drama 24 with Anil Kapoor. With shows like Naagin, broadcasters took to the fantastical genre as well. It was not about Indian audiences getting regressive as many critics claimed; it was about connecting with the viewers’ childhood and bringing a graphical representation of the audience’s visualisation. Internationally, there is an upsurge in such shows with Game of Thrones, Vampire Diaries, etc, and the Indian ‘supernatural’ trend is a local extension of this global phenomenon whose true potential is yet to be exploited to the fullest.
It doesn’t stop here. Even in terms of non-fiction content, there is an inherent element of freshness in terms of themes and formats. Shows highlighting the talent of the youth like India’s Got Talent and Dance India Dance have garnered strong audience support. But innovation is the key. Be it the combination of celebrities and common man contestants in Bigg Boss 10 or the introduction of a live interactive audience engagement format like Rising Star — every channel is raising the bar to grab the attention of the discerning Indian audience.
Innovation in content doesn’t only extend to formats, but also platforms. There are more entertainment avenues available at the viewers’ disposal, especially with increased mobile penetration. Access to online content platforms like Voot, Hotstar, TVF and Netflix has made the audience the true kings of entertainment. It has broadened their spectrum, giving them more options. A new crop of web series’ and webisodes have opened a completely new dimension of entertainment giving us, as content creators, an opportunity to up our game. In the coming years, we anticipate that quality content with high-end production and a gripping narrative will appeal most to audiences. Present-day relevance in terms of backdrop and progressive storylines along with its talk-ability and shareability based on the cultural changes currently visible in the country will draw audience attention. And this trend will be platform agnostic — regardless of the screen delivering the content to audiences, consumption patterns will focus on a concept’s relatability.
As we enter the new year, there is a muted promise that newer entertainment avenues will empower broadcasters to push boundaries to engage with more audiences. Digital and international content formats apart, the Indian television industry is on the crux of a massive revolution and it’s the one that only an adapter can champion to emerge as the frontrunner in all capacities.
Programming Head, Colors