A phenomenon called Balika Vadhu

By Sapna Nair , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | October 07, 2008
The daily show on Colors has taken the television industry by storm and has surged to become the most highly watched show on television

No heavy & #BANNER1 & # ornate saris and embellishments, no convoluted story lines and no heavy promotions. But still, Balika Vadhu has the audience in captivity. A story about the age old practice of child marriage set in rural Rajasthan, revolving around the protagonist, Anandi, who is married off at eight.

As per TAM Media Research Data for week 39, it is the most watched show on television, garnering a TVR of 6.8, beating the hitherto blockbuster programme, Bidayi on STAR Plus, which is almost at par (at number two) with a TVR of 6.6.

Balika Vadhu launched with a TVR of 0.7 on the day Colors beamed into cable and satellite households. Towards the end of the launch week, Balika Vadhu managed to get more sampling and grabbed a TVR of 1.3. The show has showed a growing trend over the months. In September, its following grew manifold, with its TVR rising from 2.9 to 6.8, making it one of the few programmes to take a big leap in a relatively short span of time.

The channel ran a risk by putting such a show on mainstream prime time. "There was a risk in Fear Factor as well since we were digressing from the conventional soaps category. But it was a conscious call," says Rajesh Kamat, chief executive officer, Colors.

Kamat believes that there is always a risk attached with offering differentiated content. "Putting Khatron Ke Khiladi, an action based, male skewed show in the 10 pm slot was a risk which has paid off," he adds.

Rajesh Kamat

Nikhil Rangnekar

Punitha Arumugam
While some say that the storyline of Balika Vadhu is its unique selling point and has contributed to the huge viewership it enjoys, the strategy adopted by the channel was radical, too. Since soaps and fiction take time to build a strong viewer base, and more importantly, woo the woman of the house, a channel is under great pressure to ensure constant sampling.

With Khatron Ke Khiladi as the driver show, Colors ensured sampling. Kamat is of the opinion that it takes at least four to six weeks to build a viewing habit after a viewer has sampled the fiction show.

Nikhil Rangnekar, executive director, West, Starcom India, says that while the story is not dramatically different, it is a breath of fresh air from the regressive daily soaps on television. "This show definitely is a step towards innovative and fresh content," he says. Starcom, along with Hansa Research, had conducted a study to gauge the sentiments of the Indian viewer and observed that the viewer was displeased with the current content and yearned for more believable and rational programmes.

Another senior media planner, also an ardent watcher of the show, said that the protagonist of the show, the girl, has won the hearts of the viewers. "The storyline of the programme is different, it's fast moving and it's a social drama with a message - something the audience hasn't seen in a while," the media planner said. "The other long-running daily soaps have seen a decline in viewership since viewers are demanding more original entertainment," the person adds.

Punitha Arumugam, group chief executive officer, Madison Media, believes that besides the show's production qualities, a logical storyline and the frequency of telecast are also ensuring good numbers for the show. "The channel has frequent repeats of the show, which results in more sampling," she says. Vouching for the popularity of the show in the advertising circle, she said that the show has a prominent place in the media plans of most of Madison Media's clients.

Surprisingly, Colors did not promote Balika Vadhu as much as Fear Factor and Jai Shri Krishna. Kamat confesses that such an overwhelming response wasn't expected. Once the show started picking up, the channel started promoting it on its network channels. Now that the show is at the top, Kamat is on his toes to ensure that it remains there. "It is good news that we have come onto the radar of the consumer, but sustaining it is the key issue," he states.