‘Sticky content’ is often used in television circles to connote a show that attracts and retains a large number of loyal viewers and builds new audiences for the broadcaster. In reality, stickiness has become so ‘unsticky’ that it’s worth questioning if we need a fresh approach to clock loyal viewers.
The top parameters for stickiness in fiction are usually a strong one-line descriptive providing a lens into new worlds and communities to help build initial curiosity, powerful writing and characters that lock viewers in as loyalists and fans. Once this is achieved, the story can travel into bizarre stretches of imagination or time leaps and still retain audiences.
If a daily gets traction in the first couple of weeks, then the challenge is to sustain and build on the initial success for months and years to come. It is a constant effort to create a new dramatic twist in the plot.
The problem is that seven to eight dailies per broadcaster are all focussed on the same strategy of winning audiences.
It is no wonder then that the prime space is gradually becoming a blind spot. A clear indication is that while the measurement sample size has increased, the show ratings have not. Instead, there is increased fragmentation of audiences.
Meanwhile, non-fiction is largely a mix of international content that has been built with huge doses of licensing, production and marketing money. It would help to rest this content for a year now and then, to keep it fresh and relevant. However, the investment that has gone into building this content is the very reason that it enjoys a longer shelf life. Such shows also meet the needs of premium advertisers in terms of visibility and celeb association.
The indigenous non-fiction shows are usually an amalgam of many international formats thrown into a blender. Many of them have done a season and disappeared from the radar. New shows along the same lines are slipped in, adding to the confusion. SaReGaMaPa, Dance India Dance, Karan Johar’s chat show and Comedy Nights with Kapil are some successful examples of indigenous brands.
While the makers and creators understand the science of stickiness, there is a larger challenge of monotony and predictability in both fiction and non-fiction.
One of the key challenges is the scheduling grid we have locked ourselves into with 5-7 days/week soaps across non-prime and primetime bands.
The monotony that comes from creating shows dictated by a scheduling grid is mind numbing. Finite fiction is yet to find its groove. This grammar is very different from soap writing. Involving Bollywood producers in the creation of these shows is not always the answer as the true merit of good fiction is writing first and then execution. Television teams are equally good at scale and are eager to experiment. The real investment needs to be directed towards building a new breed of writers for television.
The author is a media professional and consultant